Bike parking is a little tight in Portland. There’s a wait-list for bike corrals and anyone who rides has probably locked their bike to a sign post, at least once, when all the bike parking in sight was full.
As I’ve been traveling I’ve realized, however, that Portland has it pretty good. There are staple racks on most streets where customers need to park bikes and even Portland’s suburbs, like Tigard and Tualatin, have bike racks at many businesses.
Two other “bike friendly” cities I’ve visited seem to have it much worse when it comes to bike parking.
On my trip to Copenhagen last year I was very surprised to find the streets virtually devoid of bike racks.
People riding bikes in Copenhagen just lean their bikes against buildings or set them up in plazas, creating a sort of pop-up bike corral (without any actual racks, of course).
Of course, Copenhagen did have very impressive bike parking garages at some commercial centers.
Those were incredible but they weren’t everywhere you needed to park and the sparse sprinkling of on-street facilities came no where close to accommodating the thousands of people riding bicycles.
More recently, on my trip to Vancouver, I ran into a few bike racks scattered throughout downtown. Every single one of them was overflowing with bicycles.
There was clearly a lot of demand for bike parking in downtown Vancouver. Beyond the crowded bike racks there were bicycles attached to many of the parking meters and street signs along the sidewalks.
A few people even risked parking in illegal areas, just to find space for their bicycle.
It’s always interesting to consider the near universal shortage of bicycle parking, especially when you compare it with the resistance to removing even a small number of unused motor vehicle parking spaces in a commercial district.
For example, one planner I spoke with (who shall remain nameless to protect his city) said a survey of one business district found motor vehicle parking spaces were about 40% empty at peak hours. Still, when the city suggested changing the layout of parking spaces to make the street safer for people on foot business owners nearly lost their minds over the fact that car parking would be reduced by a mere three spaces, just a fraction of the dozens of empty, unused spaces.
Business owners fully understand that customers need a place to park if they’re going to stop in and spend money. Hopefully businesses will start to figure out that people on bicycles have money to spend too. Once that dawns on them I’m sure we’ll see as fierce support for more bicycle parking as we now see resistance to repurposing unused car parking.