If there is one thing in the realm of accommodating bicycles that Portland is doing really well, it’s providing parking in commercial areas. Corrals are replacing car parking spots in front of restaurants, bike shops, cafes, and boutiques in town, providing parking for people who are coming to those commercial areas to eat or shop, and there are smaller bicycle racks scattered all over these areas.
One thing they haven’t really started to address much yet is the issue of residential bike parking. For some people, this isn’t much of an issue, as they own houses and can store bikes in the garage. However, for renters, this is a much bigger problem.
Many apartments and condos in the city do not provide indoor space for parking bicycles (though more and more are starting to), and if they do, it is their own responsibility to provide some kind of parking (for instance, to allow people to park bikes in the laundry room, or find some other room to clear out for bicycle parking). Often the space that gets allocated for this is up or down stairs and awkward to get in and out of with a bike, especially a larger, heavier bike. Many people end up storing their bicycles in their apartment, which is not only inconvenient for the resident and also often requires them to carry the bike up or down stairs, but hard on the apartments due to banging into walls, scraping floors, and dragging water and dirt in all the time.
This also creates a problem when you have people coming to visit. We, for instance, sometimes have people come to visit, and arrive by bicycle. When they get here, they have to park a block away, locked to a street sign if they can find one that doesn’t already have bikes locked to it, or bring their bike(s) into our apartment as well.
There was a new ordinance passed recently which upped the requirements for bike parking in multi-dwelling buildings (apartments and condos), and removed a loophole allowing the developers to make that space inside the apartments or condos, however this has no bearing on the hundreds of already existing buildings in Portland.
So, what I think will be the next big thing in parking in Portland, is residential bike parking. We need to start thinking about accommodating bicycles around these multi-dwelling buildings. There are almost no bike racks within several blocks of our apartment, and so you see the above situation on almost every street corner – bicycles locked to street signs. That works ok for a few people, but it makes the bikes easier to steal if you have a light bike, and only provides a very minimal number of “parking spots.” Plus, this is generally discouraged, as it sometimes takes up sidewalk space and makes for random clutter and whatnot.
So, we need to either start thinking about working with the owners of these dwelling units to provide bicycle parking corrals on the street, or re-using some of the sidewalk space, perhaps where there are those grassy median areas, to allow for installation of some bike racks, maybe even covered, so that residents could leave their bikes there year-round and they would stay relatively dry.
Just like we say, nobody is going to ride a bicycle somewhere if they can’t park it once they get there – they are really not going to ride a bicycle if they don’t have anywhere to keep it at home. The same is true of a car, but we have given every street up for car parking, made stringent regulations on how much car parking must be included with dwellings, and made sure that absolutely as many people as possible have a place to park their car. We need to even that out a bit.
As with other bicycle-related infrastructure, it’s all about improving access, allowing people to move about how they prefer or are able (not everyone can drive, or wants to), and get to the things they need to get to. It’s in everyone’s best interest. The owners of the buildings create less wear-and-tear on the buildings, and makes their tenants happy. The city frees up sidewalk space, creates organized public space for the storage of bicycles, and in doing so, pleases most of its citizenship (there are always those few who are against anything you try). The residents of these buildings get a convenient place to store their vehicle, near their dwelling, but not in it.
It’s a win all around.