Commissioner Rubio wants to cut bike parking requirements to boost housing production

A bike room from an apartment building in north Portland. (Photo: Michael Andersen)

Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio is expected to slash bicycle parking regulations in a bid to bring down the cost of housing production. Rubio’s proposal will come at a City Council work session being held this morning.

As we reported back in March, Rubio, the commissioner-in-charge of the Bureau of Development Services and the Portland Housing Bureau, is facing pressure to increase the pace of new housing construction to make housing more attainable to more people and meet goals set by Oregon Governor Tina Kotek. After surveying developers and other people involved in the housing permit process back in February, Rubio’s office found that a raft of new bicycle parking requirements in city code passed in 2019 were among the top things driving housing production delays and costs. Over a third of the 600 survey respondents chose bike parking requirements as a top-five issue standing in the way of more quickly producing housing.

In documents shared by Rubio’s office in advance of today’s work session (below), they say six specific regulations can increase the cost of build housing in Portland by as much as 15% — or roughly $60,000 per unit. Those regulations include: System Development Charges (SDCs) 3-7% of project cost; ground floor active use, 1-4% of project cost; tree mitigation fees; public infrastructure; design review, 1% of project cost; and bike parking, which they say can account for 3-6% of project cost for apartments.

Slide from Commissioner Rubio “Housing Production Work Session”

Those 2019 bicycle parking regulations were passed in a bid to encourage more Portlanders to choose bicycles over cars. They included stronger security measures, racks that fit a wider variety of bikes (like cargo bikes and recumbents), an increased minimum space requirement, and more.

According to Transportation Commissioner Mingus Mapps’ Senior Policy Advisory Shannon Carney, the fact that bike parking policy is considered a big driver in the cost of housing is “unfortunate.” Carney told BikePortland via email this morning that Mapps will have a lot of questions for Rubio and her staff at the work session today.

According to Michael Andersen, a senior housing and transportation researcher at Sightline, Portland’s bike parking code could stand to be adjusted and it wouldn’t have a huge impact on how many people decide to ride. “Right now (I am told) new apartment buildings are dedicating quite a lot of internal space to bike parking rooms that are going half-empty and/or gathering little-used junker bikes. That’s of little use to anyone,” Andersen wrote in an email to BikePortland last month.

He also said the city can’t simply eliminate mandatory bike parking, because recently passed state law requires it. Oregon law says all cities in metro areas must have at least one, “convenient, covered, secure, and well-lit” bike parking space per home in a new building. Portland code requires 1.1 bike spaces per unit in most of the city and 1.5 per unit in the central city.

“The city can scale back its mandates to 1 per unit and remove rules that the bike parking be indoors, or that it have e-bike charging or cargo bike space or a certain amount of horizontal bike parking. It can stretch the definition of ‘convenient’ to include hooks in rooms,” Andersen added. “I think Portland’s in-unit bike parking design standards are a good example of how a seemingly innocuous requirement can have unanticipated costs.”

Andersen said Portland’s current requirement that in-unit bike parking be located inside a closet or alcove within 15 feet of the door, “can add significant complexity to an architectural design.” “Each additional regulatory requirement has near-zero cost in many cases, but also slightly increases the chance that you have one of these small changes that ripples through the rest of the design and drives costs up a lot.”

The good news for bicycling is that, according to Andersen, many Portland developers — especially in areas with a lot of demand for cycling — have a strong financial incentive to provide quality bike parking regardless of what city code requires. “That’s because auto parking is enormously expensive, and they can bring homes to market at hundreds of dollars less per month if they can make their buildings convenient for people to live in without a car.”

Carney with Mapps’ office says they will have some counter-proposals ready. “Commissioner Mapps is also planning to offer some solutions that don’t include rolling the city’s bike parking policies back to 1998,” Carney shared.

Stay tuned for a recap of today’s work session.


UPDATE: Here’s the recap of the work session.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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David Stein
10 months ago

It’s important to note a few of things here:
When the bike parking code update kicked off there was a glitch in the Matrix that led to the city inexplicably adjusting it’s modal share goal for biking to 15% for a couple of months. Due to forces that were never made clear this could not be changed once the mistake was fixed leaving us with guidance and regulations based on a goal that is 60% of what pretty much every plan our city states.There are likely changes that could be made that would have a negligible impact for people who want to bike and make things better but during the original process, developers seemed to be focused on pure opposition rather than creating something that worked for all parties. I don’t know the code well enough to identify them but I’d be willing to trust a smaller, well informed group representing various stakeholders to hash it out and share proposals.None of this applies to existing buildings which is something of a problem and part of why the changes were so badly needed in the first place. When we are tied to the impacts of construction for 30-50+ years these early decisions matter that much more.Commissioner Rubio was the most interesting person I never really interacted with during my time as Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) Chairperson. Her staff person was nice enough and there was no interest in working with the BAC. That was significant at the time as I was pushing for the Off-Road Bicycle Master Plan to finally be completed and approved since it was a PPR effort and that bureau was in her portfolio.
It’s getting old really quickly with City Council deciding to chip away at things like this without even trying to seek the advice of committees that convene regularly for just this purpose. If Commissioner Rubio is wanting to make changes to bike parking requirements I can understand the sentiment but only considering the feedback from developers and not even attempting to engage a committee like the BAC is wasteful and demonstrates an ignorance of the impact of these types of decisions.

SD
SD
10 months ago

There is another side to bike parking that the city should address. People who want to build secure bike parking. People who want to build ADUs are limited by total square footage of “living area” and “building area.” If they want to include secure bike parking for an ADU, they have to include the bike parking in this calculation, which takes away from living space. This also adds to architectural complexity. It may not seem like much if you think of a single person with a fixie. You might think, “well just put a hook on the wall, no big deal.” But, if you consider a two-person household with cargo-bikes and commuter bikes that need to be parked safely in doors, that could easily be 200+ square feet. Interestingly, car garages (detached and included in the structure footprint) are exempt from “living area” but require a driveway that eats up yard/ green space.
This is a change that would be a big positive for infill development.

EP
EP
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

I wonder if a motor-based ADU workaround would be to have a smaller, “Motorcycle Garage” with a roll-up door and narrow driveway/sidewalk access. This would allow access to a smaller, bike-sized parking area. Modern garages are huge, and it’s always interesting seeing the old, 1920s-era garages around town that don’t fit a modern car, and are really more suited for bike parking.

single garage.PNG
SD
SD
10 months ago
Reply to  EP

Nice idea. Thanks. This may work for some. I think that in many cases people are already trying to fit ADUs onto small lots with set backs from other properties, etc., which makes the idea of an integrated ground floor bike parking appealing. The narrow driveway is nicer than a full size car driveway, but still takes away a lot of green space that is also required by the city. Amazing how people once survived with rational sized cars.

EP
EP
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

I fixed this old ad… Maybe replace the driveway with permeable pavers with grass in between.

A GARAGE FOR YOUR BIKE.jpg
Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

This is a great point! Exempting bike parking from the city’s FAR limits would definitely help the numbers work at lower prices in some cases.

SD
SD
10 months ago

I believe that for multiunit dwellings, protected bike parking is exempted from FAR, but “in unit” bike parking is not exempted.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

Ah, OK. If so that’s news to me, but maybe you’re right? The economic analyst who spoke in today’s work session said that some of the “cost” of bike parking mandates is in having to build the space and install the racks, but some is in the fact that those square feet can’t be used as living space. That seems to suggest that they didn’t consider the bike parking FAR to be free when running these numbers.

I’d want to check the code to be sure though.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago

Thanks to Chris Smith and Iain MacKenzie, I am now aware that you are right – in the RM/RX and C apartment zones, the first 0.5/1 worth of dedicated bike parking space (so, I think functionally all of it) don’t count toward the maximum allowable building size. But Iain adds that this isn’t actually very useful because on many sites it’s hard to max out FAR anyway given the height limits, setbacks, and/or construction constraints.

In-room bike parking does count toward maximum building size, which seems appropriate since it’s hard to distinguish from living space.

I’m not sure how the economic analysis dealt with this nuance.

Brock Howell
10 months ago

I don’t understand why there’s such an attack on in-unit parking. It’s an allowance (an escape valve), not a requirement. It makes it easier for developers to make use of ground floor space.

It may be that the secured bike parking requirements need to be loosened a bit, such as allowing higher density, double-stack horizontal racks. I forget what the Portland code says on this. The photo in the article suggestd that the city is requiring only staples, spaced at 4′. That’d consume a ton of space.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  Brock Howell

Fortunately, Portland allows elevated horizontal and vertical bike parking too. (“Alternative spacing” on p. 26 here: https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/code/266-parking_3.pdf ) Some of those double-stack horizontal racks can be extremely expensive, as you know! Or, alternatively, they can be not very useful for a lot of people and a lot of bikes.

Agreed that the in-unit parking is an escape-valve option for complying with the requirement of 1.5 spaces/unit in most cases. We can choose to make that escape valve bigger or smaller. My argument above is that the in-unit parking escape valve in Portland’s code is currently pretty small.

Brock, are you or others familiar with any empirical study of the effect of residential bike parking on mode choice? It’s obvious to me as a daily bike user that there must be some effect, but I have no idea how big it is and I’ve never been able to find any work on this subject.

SD
SD
10 months ago

This is what I find frustrating. Exemptions for larger complexes. exemptions for cars in single family zoning. No consideration for bike paring in ADUs that are intended to increase density.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

I would definitely be in favor of not counting bike parking toward residential FAR limits in lower-density zones.

Nick
Nick
10 months ago

As an able bodied person who’s carried bikes up multiple flights of stairs and been able to make room for one in my previous apartments this seems fine, but I do worry that not everyone could do that (and I also could not do this with my cargo bike which has dramatically reduced my car trips). Never rented in a nice/new enough building to have dedicated bike storage, but it seems nice.

Also important to consider that the survey respondents were developers, who have a financial interest in building things cheaply (fire codes exist for a reason).

E
E
10 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Good point about developers. Also, when they’re saying that bike parking garages are half empty and filled with junk bikes, to me that screams that people don’t actually think their bike storage solutions are secure, not that there’s not actual interest. I store my ebike in my apartment because it would cost $4500 to replace and our locker has had previous break ins and there’s usually not a convenient place to lock up (ground spots taken) or charge (single outlet that requires stretching out the charger fully even if I get the right spot). I would be willing to pay a reasonable monthly fee for individual bike lockers with electricity access (especially if you could remotely set charging times or on/off so as not to overcharge the battery), as I expect a lot of other ebike owners would. If they need to recoup costs, perhaps the real answer is they need to go further with the amenities and just make back the money with premium bike parking fees.

FC
FC
10 months ago
Reply to  E

Yep, my apartment’s “secure” bike parking facility is “half empty and filled with junk bikes” because the nice half of the bikes have either been stolen or are being stored inside apartments for fear of being stolen. Safe to say it’s not so secure.

I’d gladly pay a monthly fee to store our bikes in a locker and gain the square footage back in our apartment.

blumdrew
10 months ago

I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I think just asking developers “hey, what regulations do you want rolled back?” is just generally a bad idea. Did Commissioner Rubio think to ask renters if they value have secure bike parking? Evidently not. That being said though, I do think most apartment bike parking facilities as they stand now can be inadequate for the typical person, and maybe it’s worth revisiting to see if things can be made both more simple and better.

For example, at my prior apartment (1955 SE Morrison, built in 2010 or so) there was a fully enclosed outdoor facility that I thought was pretty good. It usually was pretty much full, and I used it for the first summer I lived there for my “just ride around town bike” (eventually I got tired of trying to find a spot in there, and had enough room for two bikes inside anyways). On the other hand, I’ve got a friend at a newer build on Hawthorne who had their bike stolen by someone who ripped the rack out of the wall – I think it was inside (not totally sure though). At my current place (built well before any bike parking regulations) there is a mildewy garage with crappy hanging racks, a finicky door that doesn’t lock well, and no way to lock a bike. So there are 4 bikes in my 650ish square foot place; it’d be nice to have a well designed facility to keep at least a couple of them in.

In any case, I think some level of bike parking requirements are absolutely a good thing. Developers would be building with lead pipes and no windows if they thought it would save them a few bucks on construction and it’s worth it to have marginally higher development costs for things we collectively agree are worth having.

quicklywilliam
10 months ago

This seems like a healthy debate to have. Of the offices and apartments I’ve lived in, the centralized bike parking is almost always empty. As a daily biker with a nicer bike, it’s more convenient to just park in my apartment where I also don’t have to worry about theft. The bikes that end up in the bike room are a picture of neglect – they appear to be abandoned, or at least in long term storage. This doesn’t help anyone.

I’m not sure what the right solution is here but I am a little wary of adding new rules or requirements. It’s really hard for the city to anticipate the needs of both developers (trying to build much needed housing as cheaply as possible) and residents (who have an ever-changing range of preferences and needs around bike parking). I think the best thing might be the simplest: some sort of “right to park” rule that guarantees people the right to bring their bikes onto elevators and store them in their apartment/office without fear of fines or harassment from their landlord.

It’s also worth remembering that there are *still* plenty of requirements and artificial subsidies for car parking. Eliminating those is a win-win: cheaper housing, and stronger incentives not to consider alternatives to driving.

blumdrew
10 months ago
Reply to  quicklywilliam

It’s also worth remembering that there are *still* plenty of requirements and artificial subsidies for car parking

subsidies, yes (especially for on-street parking). I thought that city council functionally removed all parking mandates already though.

HJ
HJ
10 months ago
Reply to  quicklywilliam

Yes, we definitely need a right to park law. Even if there is a bike parking location outside of an apartment if people don’t feel it’s secure (which often happens) and they aren’t allowed to take them to their apartment (also unfortunately common) they simply won’t ride.
A rule like that would protect the encouragement of cycling while providing more flexibility in options for construction requirements. I almost always kept my bikes in my apartment when I lived in them, wasn’t an issue and I greatly preferred it to having to park them in a community space.

maxD
maxD
10 months ago
Reply to  HJ

I lived in an apartment in Vancouver, BC. My bike was locked (kryptonite) toa staple in a locked bike room within a locked parking garage. Someone got in and stole all the decent bikes in one night. Looking at apartments in Portland, I am struck with just how efficient they are- efficient to the point of cruelty! The closets are tiny, there is very little storage and the living room/dining room “adjoin”, which in this case means neither is big enough. These probably work fine for a couple with no kids who work in an office, but there is no flexibility for people with kids, a pet, hobbies, or work form home. I think getting rid of communal bike storage, or minimizing it, might be ok If the City can swap that over for some generalized storage per unit. This could be in-unit or have a storage room for each unit. Basically, anything to keep apartments from being second-class accommodations.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  maxD

How about a locker/closet that could be accessed from within and outside the apartment, to keep gear like bikes, skis, or other wet/messy gear, with an outlet for charging or whatnot?

For me, getting rid of the common bike room without replacing it with a better bike parking solution is just a developer giveaway.

E
E
10 months ago
Reply to  HJ

Amen. I expect this to become a big issue again with ebikes too. I’ve had two in my apartment for 5 years without issue because I buy high end ones and it’s more convenient to charge them, but cheap Li-Ion batteries are a fire risk, especially if owners don’t treat them well (drops, over charging, charging at the wrong temp). I’d like to see ebike parking in individual bike lockers (2-3 per parking space, more if you stack them) with electricity access, but I’ve only seen stuff like this for the European market. I’d happily pay the appropriate parking fee if I can leave a couple jackets/rain pants on hooks inside, too, and have remote access to time/shut off the electricity so I don’t have to run down to shut off the charging.

EP
EP
10 months ago
Reply to  E

I do wonder about the need for increased building safety requirements for bike rooms if they need to be “battery-fire proof”.

For your worries of overcharging, there are “outlet timers” of sorts that let you set/program the charging time. There are the little ones for lights in your home, but bigger ones for higher amp devices like a bike charger.

EP
EP
10 months ago

This seems like a slippery slope towards reducing the amount of bike mode share in this city. Maybe all these bike rooms in new buildings aren’t at 100% capacity right now, but how about in 10-20 years? How will people give up their cars for bikes if there isn’t a decent place to store them? If the security, quality, and convenience of a building’s bike parking is reduced to save some $, it will make biking unattractive to an apartment dweller. Removing parking requirements is already saving the developer an average of $50k per unit. What’s next? Removing fire escapes and stairwells? Getting rid of doors to save a few more bucks?

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
10 months ago
Reply to  EP

Choking infill decreases bike share, among myriad other problems.

carrythebanner
10 months ago

It’s reasonable to have a discussion to find solutions that broadly serve as many desirable policy goals at once without unduly detracting from the others.

Whatever the exact solution, though, there should be safeguards to ensure that bike parking isn’t reduced or made less desirable but auto parking is maintained. Aside from the benefit of dedicated auto parking spots for people with disabilities, the downsides of auto parking exceed bike parking on every axis — cost, space required, climate goals, etc. Any concern that applies to bike parking should apply as much or moreso to auto parking.

blumdrew
10 months ago
Reply to  carrythebanner

There are already no parking minimums for new developments in the city of Portland. Developers often choose to include some anyways, since people do want it

carrythebanner
10 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

For sure, just saying that developers shouldn’t be able to cry poor and reduce bike parking while at the same time voluntarily choosing to install auto parking.

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  carrythebanner

Sometimes they may have to in order to get a loan. Banks have been skittish about loaning to projects without auto parking. Or if they do make the loan, it’s at a somewhat higher rate because the prospect of a zero parking building is considered riskier.

SD
SD
10 months ago

I hope this discussion also includes an understanding that current and future e-bikes are larger and heavier and this trend will likely continue. Additionally, e-bikes extend bike use to groups that may have a more difficult time lifting heavier bikes.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

Totally agreed. To extrapolate on that: e-bikes make bike storage less efficient in many cases, because you can’t stack or, in many cases, hang. That will increase future squeezes on bike parking space, but also it will reduce the effectiveness of “check the box” ways to comply with current or potential regulations (5-foot-high horizontal racks, hooks in rooms, basements without elevators, other stuff may meet the letter of regulation but not actually be very useful for mode shift).

There’s no way to write regulations that will perfectly anticipate all these changing needs, just as no developers will be able to perfectly anticipate these changing needs voluntarily. It’s tough.

maxD
maxD
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

great point! Rubio may end up eliminating bike parking just when we finally need it!

E
E
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

I do expect cargo ebikes to become more common as kid carriers as singles who rode ebikes start to have families and hopefully feel welcome to stay in the urban core. But I’m hopeful battery and motor technology improvements will make ebikes lighter generally… 😉

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
10 months ago

In most communities with slow growth and/or declining populations, landlords and developers are trying to entice new residents to their developments and apartments with incentives such as free (car) parking and so on. Portland until the 1990s was such a city.

However, given the current 25-year population boom and resulting housing shortage, the city needs to change their policies drastically, including:

A city-wide parking permit programA city-wide ban on all parking along arterial and collector streets (which nearby Gresham implemented over a decade ago)After said parking ban, adding cheap painted buffered bike lanes in lieu of the parking spaces – likely there will be lax parking enforcement and a plague of illegally parked cars on the lanes at first, but over time users will get used to the idea that main streets are for traffic, bikes, and pedestrians and not for parking cars. You can even add Rose lanes.A policy of no more off-street parking spots for apartments with an ADA exception – if you need to park your car, you may need to park more than a block away on some side street, competing with hundreds of other users.
If you feel that such policies will hurt the poor, it’s a bit too late for such sentimentality – the poor already left or are already homeless – and it’s time to think of Portland a one of several reservations nationwide for rich carless urbanites.

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Yeah it has really started to bug me every time I see cars parked on arterials. Shouldn’t be allowed anywhere. Most of the houses have garages and most of the rest are on a side street. The remainder, if they simply must, can park what amounts to a 30 second walk around the corner.

Randi J
Randi J
10 months ago

This sounds just like Kotek’s push to pass HB 3414 A which would have suspended all local environmental regulations so more housing could be pushed through. Fortunately Willamette Ricerkeeper raised the alarm on that one and it was stopped.
Rubio’s plan seems shortsighted just like Kotek’s.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
10 months ago
Reply to  Randi J

Kotek was right about this, and despite their name, Willamette Riverkeepers was wrong. Our government chokes housing construction with a morass of regulations that hurts both Portlanders and the environment.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark in NoPo

If the rules are too onerous, Kotek should focus on changing them, like this proposal does. Just sweeping rules away en masse is a lazy and dangerous solution.

On another level, it is interesting to see that the left is adopting the positions and rhetoric of the libertarian right wing. Maybe they weren’t so wrong about government after all?

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  Randi J

I didn’t join the push for that final version of 3414 A myself, but that is not an accurate characterization of what it would have done. Very few environmental regulations were still on the list of auto-approved exemptions by the last round.

City lover
City lover
10 months ago
Reply to  Randi J

Agree. Agree. Agree. Signed former land use and bike /ped planner

Andrew S
Andrew S
10 months ago

When were talking about barriers to creating affordable housing, I don’t think the existing crop of higher-end apartment buildings are the issue here. Definitely some room to debate here, but talking about those half-empty basement garages in fancier buildings might not be the right direction for the conversation to go.

When I think about market rate affordable housing, I’m more picturing low rise apartment complexes in Cully or Hazelwood, not so much an already amenities-laden high rise on NW Front Ave that seems more targeted toward young professionals. Correct me if I’m wrong about where lower income earners are living, but those options seem to be in locations where transit access is poor, and bike distance is questionable for many. If there’s no secure bike parking, or your landlord yells at you for bringing your bike inside, that could be the last straw for many on choosing whether to ride a bike. I’ve struggled in the past with inadequate bike parking and landlords that can be outright hostile to bikes. I don’t want that struggle to influence people’s transportation choices.

As for the half-empty basements in fancier looking buildings, I’m a little more ok with relaxing the bike parking requirements a bit, but don’t expect car parking as an alternative (as a renter or a developer).

All that is to say, when considering how to reduce barriers to creating affordable housing, let’s make sure we’re actually talking about affordable housing.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew S

Regulations like these inflate the cost of building housing, rendering lower-end construction too expensive to build. Rubio’s suggestions will bring more projects to pencil, increasing housing supply and lowering rents.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark in NoPo

Low end housing isn’t too expensive to build, it’s just isn’t as profitable. How much more does it cost to add high end finishes to an apartment that you can then rent for significantly more? Why would anyone interested in profit build anything but high end units?

It’s certainly not because bike parking is too luxurious.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago

I appreciate the chance to share some thoughts, Jonathan! Is that photo at the top current, or from the opening of the building?

Michael Andersen
10 months ago

I think so, not sure.

I feel like some more photos of recently built bike rooms would do a lot to inform this debate. I’ve only been able to talk myself into one building so far, on Interstate near Killingsworth. The main bike parking room was maybe 80% empty, though the property manager told me the smaller ones on the upper floors were full. https://twitter.com/andersem/status/1683895025388916736

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
10 months ago

Some history on how the bike parking requirements came to be:

https://bikeportland.org/2018/09/25/wonk-night-zeroes-in-on-bike-parking-code-update-290052

https://bikeportland.org/2018/09/20/after-20-years-portlands-bike-parking-code-set-for-major-refresh-287535

https://bikeportland.org/2013/10/01/a-real-estate-wonk-night-lets-reform-portlands-bike-parking-code-94772

I’m wondering what Chris Smith thinks of this.

One idea is to include in the design multiple rooms that would meet the bike parking requirements, but be allowed to use them for other purposes until, and if, they are needed for bike parking in the future, as demand increases.

It is essential that adaptive, cargo, and other non-typical bikes have a place to securely park that is accessible to their users.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

Thanks, Betsy. I wrote the oldest of those posts myself! Chris actually emailed me today to suggest we meet to talk about this, and we’re doing so next week.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Reese

Chris thinks some context should be provided indicating the amount spent VOLUNTARILY to build auto parking for recent developments. And compare that to the REQUIRED bike parking cost. I’ll bet developers voluntarily spend several multiples of the bike parking cost on auto parking.

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris Smith

I don’t understand your point here, Chris. Zero auto parking is required. Most tenant households own a car. Of course developers of large apartment buildings are usually going to build at least some auto parking spaces voluntarily in that situation, just as they would build bike parking spaces voluntarily even if Portland had no bike parking mandates at all.

If the existence of 20 off-street auto parking spaces, each renting for $200/month, is what it takes to enable the 60 homes to be built in a bikeable part of Portland rather than in south Hillsboro with 90 free parking spaces, that’s a win for Portland bike politics and for the planet. I think we agree on that?

IMO we should be fighting desperately to reduce the number of tenants who choose to own cars. One way to do that is by making it economically possible to build a lot more homes, especially low-cost homes, in the bike-friendliest large city in the country. This is my own motivation here.

surly ogre
surly ogre
10 months ago

I am sick of greedy developers and complicit city commissioners. It costs way more to build car parking spaces than bike spaces. Many years ago BPS reduced car parking requirements to help developers make more money. This scheme by Rubio is just a way to give developers more money. We need more people on bicycles not less. We need more housing with access to secure bike parking.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
10 months ago
Reply to  surly ogre

If we want more housing, we need to lower the cost of construction. Private developers build most of Portland’s housing—and local government builds some, too. Both will build more housing if it costs less.

Who are the second-order beneficiaries of building more housing? Everyone who struggles to pay for housing or cares about someone who does.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
10 months ago

Major props to Councilor Rubio for identifying these six ideas to encourage new development. My partner lives in the Pearl, at a nice apartment with a very full car garage and mostly empty bike room. When I visit, I bring my bike up the elevator, rather than risk it being stolen from the common room, so I’d be well-served by a hook at the entry of her apartment.

Dave
Dave
10 months ago

Oh, spare me. Will this really do anything useful? Will the city or any other jurisdiction ever look beyond their blind worship of free market fairy tales to address our housing situation? Can anyone in this region spell the words “vacancy tax?”

blumdrew
10 months ago
Reply to  Dave

Sure, I can spell just fine. Portland has pretty low vacancy rates, which is part of why rental costs continue to climb (it’s about 6% county wide).

Will any US city reject free market fairy tales? It’s possible. Milwaukee had a socialist mayor when my uncle was born there. If Portland could elect a Daniel Hoan type of politician to office I think that’d be lovely. Is it likely to happen in the immediate future? Seems like a no.

Fred
Fred
10 months ago

Another terrible idea from Rubio! Make it easier to do OTHER things but keep the requirement for cycle storage, since it’s what we need to fight climate change.

eawriste
eawriste
10 months ago

I have to admit I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to zoning laws so this may seem naive. I know Oregon got rid of requiring single family housing and Portland has little (no?) parking requirement for buildings. I’m also vaguely familiar with the Residential Infill Project, but there seems to be another elephant in the room.

Isn’t reason why constructing new buildings mostly because most people don’t want them around their own houses?

Since 1968 when the New City Planning Law was passed, Tokyo has had a housing surplus. It still does. Instead of hundreds of zones, Tokyo has 12, which are inclusive (commercial with residential). I bet Michael Anderson knows the answer to this, but isn’t the culprit by orders of magnitude really still just the sheer stupidity of euclidean zoning?

qqq
qqq
10 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

Isn’t reason why constructing new buildings mostly because most people don’t want them around their own houses?

What’s the question? It looks like a word or two may be missing, or I’m just not reading it well.

Is it why aren’t more multi-family housing projects being built? If so, the zoning restrictions against density are part of it, but certainly not the only reason. Lots of areas in Portland have much lower residential density than what’s allowed (and what has been allowed for some time).

qqq
qqq
10 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Or if it’s “Isn’t reason why constructing new buildings ISN’T BEING DONE MORE mostly because most people don’t want them around their own houses?”: There’s lots being constructed next to people that definitely don’t want it constructed, so people not wanting it next to them in itself doesn’t kill projects. But if those people push back successfully against zoning that allows more density, and are successful (which does happen), that does get in the way of more being built–except it’s not the only barrier, since zoning that allows it doesn’t mean it will be built.

eawriste
eawriste
10 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Right so wouldn’t dramatically reworking zoning laws to make them more inclusive and simplified (like in Japan) increase housing supply a lot more than tweaking things like bike parking requirements etc?

Here’s the current zoning map. ~90% of Portland is zoned residential only (eg R7), single dwelling if I’m not mistaken. Isn’t that the actual problem why rents and demand are so high, and it’s difficult for developers to build?

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

It’s a big problem that definitely affects home prices more than mandatory bike parking does. Most of my job at Sightline is dedicated to changing it! But even if we made it legal for Portland to eventually look like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, the level of mandatory bike parking would still be relevant to getting projects built.

I’m sort of obsessed with the string of three-story, 12-18 unit apartment buildings on Montana Avenue, just off Interstate, in Arbor Lodge. They look great IMO, they’re not so huge that they totally transform the area, and they went in on a bunch of 5,000 square foot lots…they’re EXACTLY how we’d dream of gradually Copenhagenizing housing in Portland. Last year I spoke with some of the guys who were building them. They identified two regulatory that shut down their operation: increased setback and open space requirements that the city passed for residential apartment zones in 2019; and the increased bike parking mandates.

If Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Utrecht were full of awesome residential bike parking, I’d be more inclined to support Portland-level mandates here. But residential bike parking in those cities isn’t awesome. Most people just stash them in their apartments or yards or on the street.

eawriste
eawriste
10 months ago

Very helpful. Thanks! How could we simplify the zoning code to make it more like Tokyo, or Utrecht? It seems like we’re mostly talking about things that have only a small effect on supply. I also would much prefer research on what prevents more housing supply, as opposed to the opinion of developers (not to say they don’t have some insight).

axoplasm
10 months ago
Reply to  eawriste

I have nothing informed to add but this seems like a good excuse to post this photo of a bike garage I took at a friend’s apartment building in Sapporo, a very typical middle-class multifamily residence

https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0qJu8EH6JuYnSn

IDK what regulatory scheme led to this (actually probably a side effect of whatever scheme led to houses built shoulder-to-shoulder out to the curb, playgrounds every other block, & vending machines EVERYWHERE)…but it was awesome. This photo only shows half the room. Note the strollers & stridebikes

I wish I had taken a photo of the auto garage…it was automated, with a car elevator that would stash your car underground

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  axoplasm

By the looks of it, that awesome bike room wouldn’t be up to city standards.

ED
ED
10 months ago

If you just ask developers what requirements are increasing their costs, it’s really insightful that they only choose things that they perceive don’t make them money. They list SDCs as a huge expense, but not the cost of indoor toilets and plumbing. But guess what, it’s sewer SDCs that pay for the pipes and the treatment that take that sh*t from the toilet and make the whole system work. So it’s maddening to see attempts to carve off the external, common elements that make the whole city work as “extra costs” that are unnecessarily driving up housing prices.

Bike parking is somewhere in between a private amenity for bike owners and a common good, supporting overall city transportation goals. In comparison to cars, I would point out that there aren’t really any alternatives to private bike parking. If you can’t store your bike in your apartment (either the individual unit or a shared parking area), there’s no “on-street” parking like on many streets for cars. Bikes locked up outdoors are going to be stolen in no time so overnight or multiday storage simply isn’t an option. So without requirement for private bike storage inside of apartments, it would seem really hard to expand biking as a transportation option. Now are we as a community willing to prioritize that including a modest 3% increase in apartment rents to make those collective goals happen?

Michael Andersen
10 months ago
Reply to  ED

All good points. Seems to me that there might be some middle ground here. Mandatory bike parking is a particular barrier to:

  • reuse of old buildings (empty downtown office buildings for one)
  • super-low-cost SROs/micro-units that depend on high unit counts per square foot, for which the mandatory bike parking space is actually pushing 10% of total living space
  • housing for people with disabilities or seniors, some of whom may well have bike parking needs but they very likely won’t be the same as the general population’s
  • housing in highly transit-oriented areas where people are less likely to own bikes because transit is actually good

It’d make sense to me to lower bike parking mandates specifically for situations like those.

JR
JR
10 months ago

As someone who contributed to the city’s survey, I can vouch for the delays, costs, and design challenges that the very, very detailed bike parking requirements place on developers. My company built a state-of-the-art secure bike parking facility about 8 years ago. Later on, we made changes on the property and were asked to change everything around because we were a few inches off in one measurement or another because bike parking is one of those requirements that come into place when making modifications to existing development above a certain threshold. We were also required to add a whole bunch more outdoor parking even though the site is in a location where I (and apparently many others) wouldn’t dare leave a bike outside due to theft. What’s more maddening is that in our case, the bike parking (indoor and out) was hardly ever used. If it was heavily used, maybe those few inches would help, but the actual demand for space is nowhere in the analysis.

At least when car parking was required it was based on demand studies. Now that car parking is not required, developers only include what they think is needed. I think the same would happen if there’s demand for bike parking that’s not being met. Rather than require so many ridiculous measurements to be met, how about the city just require developers to provide a hard, washable surface within at least 100sf of an apartment if bike parking is not provided elsewhere. I hope Rubio, Mapps and other consider changes to bike parking for all land uses. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable even leaving my bike in an enclosed area without some sort of attendant/security present (like I have at work), so I’m curious how people living in an apartment building feel about leaving their bikes in a large shared room in the basement or different floor than their unit.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago

There’s an awful lot of Stockholm Syndrome here — have y’all just given up on biking in Portland?

Maybe there’s a better way to do bike parking, and if so I’d be all in favor (and I made a specific suggestion above). But the number of comments saying “I’ll just keep my bike in my living room, thank you” is astounding. That’s no way to entice new folks onto bikes.

Overall, I’m very disappointed at the reaction here, especially at the number of people willing to carry water for for-profit developers (which a couple of you get paid to do, but the rest seem to be willing to do for free).

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There’s really no robust evidence that having a bike room in an apartment building, let alone one built to the City’s standards, does anything to meaningfully shift mode share to bicycles. My building doesn’t have a bike room, yet most of us still have and use bikes. We keep them in our apartments or in our parking spaces, and it’s completely fine.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Will

Is storing bikes in your apartment (something I’ve also had to do) really an adequate solution to the bike parking issue? Do we really want to absolve builders/architects from finding a less janky solution?

I understand the drawbacks to bike rooms, and this discussion opens up the possibility of implementing a solution that works better for everyone. Is asking folks to keep their bikes in their living room really the best we can hope for?

I may lack imagination, but I can’t think of a clearer way to tell people that bicycling is a second-class mode of transport than that.

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I honestly truly don’t understand what’s janky about storing a bike in an apartment. Bikes aren’t cars. They’re small and relatively easy to tuck away. It’s not degrading to store a bike in an apartment. It’s, at worst, a minor inconvenience. And, if you do have a bike room, it’s not the end of the world if the bikes touch, or lean against each other a bit, or if you need to do a little maneuvering. People need to be a bit less precious about a thing that they ride in the rain, in the dirt, over potholes and trash.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Will

They’re small and relatively easy to tuck away.

I’m curious what sort of apartment you have in which you can easily “tuck away” a bicycle, especially one you use daily. Do you have roommates who also ride? Do your bikes ever come in wet and/or dirty? Do you have flat bars (as many “new rider” bikes do)?

If it works for you, great. I hope it works for folks who want to start riding, but I think having to figure out how to store a bike in a possibly already full apartment would be an obvious deterrent, and I am convinced we can do better.

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I live alone, ride a flat bar bicycle every day, and while I don’t keep it in my current apartment (800 ish sqft), I did keep it inside when I lived in a smaller apartment in Chicago, where I also rode it everyday, in the rain and and snow.

I managed it by doing the unthinkable thing of wiping it off when I came in, and leaning it against the wall in my bedroom. The horror! When I lived with roommates we all kept our bikes in our rooms, or, when we had one, a garden shed where *gasp* we had to walk outside to get to them and and(!) we had less than twelve square feet per bike. In fact, they all just leaned against each other, next to the surfboards.

I’m going to posit that The Great Storage Question is way down on the list of what deters folks from biking.

SD
SD
10 months ago
Reply to  Will

I get this sentiment and agree to some extent, but this and many other comments on this thread sound like the bike parking equivalent of “vehicular cycling.” People’s needs and experiences around cycling vary broadly. Lowering barriers to cycling means making biking easier/ better than current bike users have tolerated.

Will
Will
10 months ago
Reply to  SD

Sure, but the questions remain what is the impact of bike parking requirements on shifting mode share, are the current bike parking regulations reasonable (ie would we get 80-90% of the same benefits with simpler requirements), do the bike parking requirements (as written) impact the affordability and overall supply of housing, and are the benefits of the requirements (as written) worth the impacts to production and affordability?

I’d argue we’d be better off with simpler requirements at the same level of required bike parking. A secure room or rooms (ground floor or otherwise) with staple racks and call it a day.

SD
SD
10 months ago
Reply to  Will

I agree there seems to be missing data.

I haven’t made it through the whole presentation yet, but in this coverage and greater discussion, I haven’t seen any real analysis of bike rack usage. What are the true utilization rates? Is it different in different complexes or areas of Portland? Why would people rather keep their bikes in their living space? Are there security concerns, convenience issues, etc.? How important is it to people in different places?

All I have seen so far are anecdotes. These are answerable questions and should have been part of the analysis from the beginning. It would be a huge mistake to eliminate a regulation or change it without knowing basic information about the effects. Apologies if it is there and I haven’t found it yet.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Will

Agree that we need more data about the actual impact of these requirements. Unfortunately, the way we usually get this data is asking the people most incentivized to lie and no way to verify that what they are saying is true.

A developer testifying about the negative impact of requirements like bike rooms (or whatever) is probably even less trustworthy than the guy at the car lot telling you that the odometer on the car you’re looking at “is all highway miles”. Sure thing, buckaroo.

SD
SD
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Projects related to bikes are a cherished sacrificial lamb. The blood letting makes progressives appear more progressive and conservatives more conservative. In Portland, you are not a serious politician, activist, organizer, trust or association until you have helped murder a bike project. As the modest bike improvement breathes its final breaths, you can strut into the virtual or literal town square like Spartacus and declare victory for almost any noble cause that will boost your fledgling aspirations. With fire in your eyes, you can beam lasers of scorn and shame upon bike advocates for their impurities or their naive idealism.

Caleb
Caleb
10 months ago

I am worried that some funny financialization is making it’s way into the decision. You can’t charge for business rent in a space occupied by bike parking, even if, and I can’t stress this enough, the space would have gone unused regardless.