A Guide for Architects, Designers, and Developers.
Published in 2018, the City of Portland’s bike parking requirements were designed to encourage bike travel within city limits and reduce automotive congestion on already crowded roadways. Increasing adequate and convenient bike parking makes it easier for people to chose biking and overcome barriers that block increased ridership. The newest requirements provide specifics on the number of required parking positions, their placement, and clearances as well as recommendations to best comply with the “spirit” of helping Portland reach the goal of achieving 10% bike rider transportation number. Portland’s latest bike parking regulations provide increased options for bicycle riders throughout the city while creating some challenges and new opportunities for architects and developers.
The city’s Bicycle Parking Standards define spacing, bike rack requirements, and numbers of required bike parking positions for both long and short term bike parking. In terms of spacing, Portland has adopted some of the most generous spacing requirements among the major west coast cities with bike racks spaced on 24 inch centers. However, for certain bike rack configurations, it may be possible to acquire city approval to place some racks on 18 inch centers. Rack spacing should also allow for a 6 foot bike length with a 5 foot manoeuvring area behind the rack for mounting and un-mounting of the bike to the rack.
The standards for bike racks themselves are relatively basic. A rack should allow a U-shaped lock to secure the bike frame and one wheel to the rack. Racks and bike lockers must be securely anchored to floors, walls, or ceilings. Racks should also support the bike in a way that it can not fall over and/or damage the bike or its components. The city has provided a Handbook of Approved Bicycle Racks with several examples of approved bike parking systems. While all the racks in the handbook are adequate to meet the city’s regulations, many of the systems listed are less than ideal in regards to accessibility, bike and component protection, and durability. Additionally, several cities such as San Francisco and Seattle have provisions requiring a percentage of accessible horizontal parking with increased spacing to accommodate recumbent and other non traditional bicycle types, and even electric bikes and their charging stations. For the moment, however, Portland’s codes do not address these issues. Please read our personal recommendations below or check with other cities to get some helpful ideas.
Similar to other major cities in the Pacific Northwest, Portland has adopted two categories of bike parking: short and long term. The short term requirements are meant to encourage building visitors such as shoppers and customers to make their trips via bicycle by making parking convenient, abundant, and easy to find. Long term parking provides regular users of a building, such as employees and residents, nearby bike parking that is safe and weather protected. Most buildings will require a mix of short and long term parking.
Short term bike parking should be conspicuously placed outdoors within 50 ft. of all main building entrances. There is no provision for short term parking to be protected from the elements and there are no requirements addressing materials used for exterior racks. The Office of Transportation manages a Bicycle Parking Fund to assist with providing city approved exterior racks in certain circumstances.
Long term parking does require that at least 50% of the parking positions be covered. All long term parking must be secured using locking gates/doors, monitored by security guards and/or cameras, or have visibility from employee work areas. Racks or lockers to be used as long term parking must comply with the standards section 33.266.220.C of the city’s parking code (see recommendations below).
The minimum required number of residential long term bike parking spaces varies according to the building’s location. The Central City as defined in Portland’s Central City 2035 Plan (MAP?) requires a minimum of 1.5 long term spaces per multi-dwelling unit, while requirements for the rest of the city are a minimum of 1.1 spaces per unit. Non-residential categories are not affected by the Central City designation. The minimum parking space requirements for all building types are detailed in the table below and can also be determined using Five at Heart’s Portland Bike Parking Calculator.
When designing a bike room, there are several factors to consider. Most bike rooms will be utilized by riders with many styles and sizes of bikes. To address these challenges, a mix of bike rack systems is usually the best option for most facilities in meeting bike rider needs. Other considerations for well designed bike parking facilities include amenities such as lockers, showers, ironing stations, apparel drying stations, and even towel services. The best design outcomes will incorporate input from all members of the Project team including owners, designers, suppliers and hopefully the bike riders themselves! As a premier end-of-ride specialty supplier and installer with a strong focus on design, Five at Heart has worked with architects, owners, and developers all over the world to design innovative and exciting end-of-ride facilities that add value to properties and make tenants happy.
Vertical parking is a good option for maximizing parking positions to square footage. These can be mounted directly to walls or a stand alone framework. However, these racks can have some disadvantages with accessibility. Most vertical racks require the user to completely lift the bike off the ground while guiding the front wheel onto a peg or hook which can be a potential problem for some bike riders. Five at Heart’s The Cradle, which is listed in The Office of Transportation’s Handbook of Approved Bicycle Racks, eliminates this disadvantage by allowing the front wheel to roll the bike onto the rack without the need to lift it completely off the ground, educing stress on the bike rider. This design also greatly reduces the possibility of wheel or spoke damage as the tire is only part of the bike that comes into contact with the rack.
Stacked Bicycle Parking is another great way to increase the number of positions per square foot. Most stacked parking systems feature lift assist for the upper level, allowing users with a wide range of physical abilities and sizes to easily use both levels. These racks are usually fixed to a steel frame which can limit design flexibility. Five at Heart’s The Arc (also listed in the Handbook of Approved Bicycle Racks) features upper-tier lift assist, superior design, and infinite installation flexibility as each rack is freestanding.
Inverted “U” type racks are the most versatile and one will see many variations of this design in most cities. These racks will accommodate any size or style of bike if installed with adequate spacing including cargo and recumbent bikes. They are most commonly used for short term parking, but also should have a place in most bike rooms. Five at Heart’s The Hoop incorporates options such as thermoplastic coating to provide superior protection for bike frames and pipe cutter proof steel for security. The Wishbone model takes this rack type to another level with leather padding and a unique design that enhances any bike room while providing the ultimate in accessibility. By lifting the back wheel off the ground, The Wishbone also adds extra protection against bikes falling over and onto one another.
As bike ridership increases every year, developers and architects have begun viewing enhanced long term parking as a relatively low cost building amenity that can set a property apart from competitors and provide a superior experience for tenants. Five at Heart’s Cycle Heart Rating is an excellent tool to identify opportunities for project team members to improve the bike commuter experience. The Cycle Heart Rating is a complementary service provided by Five at Heart’s cycling experience experts who evaluate facilities based on factors such as accessibility, community interaction, and convenience. Facilities that rate highest include amenities such as a mix of racks to accommodate all bicycle types, lockers, and bike repair stations. Buildings that score well over several rating categories are then Cycle Heart certified and are free to use the Cycle Heart logo in marketing or other media.
The City of Portland’s 2018 bike parking requirements may seem be somewhat onerous when compared to some areas of the country, but are comparable to other cities in the region and are based on the unique bike needs of the city. As these requirements are finding their way into projects throughout the city, the quality of bike room outcomes will depend on understanding and proper implementation. Working with an end-of-ride specialty supplier/installer to maximise value and user experience is a great option to get the most out of any bike parking design and help you in understanding the needs of your bike room project!