bicycle parking code update
Story by Chris Smith, a member of the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission. He previously wrote about how bicycles and streetcars can co-exist.
After a supportive vote from the Portland Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) at their meeting last month, the first full overhaul of Portland’s Bicycle Parking zoning code in two decades is now headed to City Council.
The package is largely similar to the output of a stakeholder committee last year, as refined in the proposed draft (PDF) sent to the PSC, with one big exception: something we’re calling “bike nooks”.
Our current parking code (from last century) allowed bike parking to be located in an apartment or condo, something no other major city allows. Despite efforts to refine this code in 2010, we still saw horror stories like bike racks above beds or couches (see photo).
Portland has adopted goals to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent (Climate Action Plan), make 70 percent of trips by something other than driving alone (Comprehensive Plan), and reach a 25 percent cycling usage rate (Transportation System Plan) by 2035.
To reach these goals we must have ample, accessible, and secure bicycle parking available citywide. And it was with these goals in mind that the City of Portland embarked on their Bicycle Parking Code Update project in 2016. Our existing code hasn’t had a wholesale update since 1996 when about 200,000 fewer people lived here and our official bicycle commute mode split was a measly 1.2 percent (it’s at around 7 percent today).
But the city’s proposals have run up against concerns from real estate developers and our local chamber of commerce. Companies and organizations that construct housing and office buildings worry they’ll lose money if they devote too much space to bicycle parking. Precious square footage in Portland’s hot real estate market can be put to more valuable use, they argue, as retail space or more housing units. The Portland Business Alliance echoes those concerns and says current bicycling rates are so low they don’t even merit the need for more bike parking.
This post is part of a contractual partnership between BikePortland and Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Last night we hosted a special Wonk Night event to bolster the City of Portland’s bicycle parking code update project.
As we shared last week, the bike parking chapter of the Zoning Code (33.266.200) was written in 1996. That means it doesn’t address today’s volume of riders, the types of bikes people ride, or best practices for the design, security, and location of bike parking. And it’s certainly not strong enough to handle projected growth — in terms of our bicycle ridership goals or the population overall.
That’s a problem.
If people don’t have an accessible and secure place to park their bikes, they’ll be less likely to ride. And for those who don’t bike yet, seeing bikes neatly lined up at high-quality parking spaces can be an inspirational nudge toward giving it a try.
1996 was a long time ago. I imagine some of you reading this weren’t even born yet. Did you know the City of Portland is using a bike parking code that was adopted way back then?
It’s true. Even though our bicycling rates have septupled since then and we have about 100,000 more residents, we’re still using a playbook that’s 20 years old. If we want to meet our goal of 25% bicycle mode split by 2030, we’ve got to bring our parking policies into the modern era. Thankfully, a major update is in the works.