Why 1.1 Bike Parking Spaces?

October 28, 2009

As part of the RICAP 5 process, we recommended that City Council change the minimum bike parking ratio for multi-dwelling units (apartments and condos) from 0.25 spaces per unit to 1.1 spaces per unit.

How did we get there?

The original 0.25 ratio predates the original 1996 Bicycle Master Plan. That plan recommended updating it to 1.0, but that effort failed to gain approval in the late ’90s. As we all know, cycling has taken off dramatically since that time.

During the 1st hearing on the RICAP package, we got testimony that some central city condos were seeing demand for bike parking of up to 1.8 bikes per unit and we asked staff to research the issue.

PBOT staff came back with a recommendation of 1.5 spaces per unit and we tentatively agreed to it at the last meeting, but it was clear that the Commission had some reservations based on a couple of things:

  1. The magnitude of the change from the prior standard (RICAP is supposed to be the home to relatively minor changes to the zoning code)
  2. Developer John Carroll (who developed The Gregory in the Pearl and the Elliot Tower downtown) testified in favor of increasing the ratio but balked somewhat at the 1.5 number.

At tonight’s meeting it was suggested that we scale this back to 1.0. I suggested a compromise at 1.1 on the basis of the following math (developed by PBOT):

An average of 1.64 people per unit x 69% of Portlanders owning bicycles = 1.12 bikes/unit.

The more aggressive 1.5 number additionally factors in a percentage of folks who own more than one bike. My support for the lower number has several rationales:

  • John Carroll did an additional assessment of his existing buildings and communicated to me that he thought he could fit additional bike parking to get to about 1.0 without adding to the building floorplate
  • From a sustainability and affordability point of view, I was reluctant to create a minimum standard that might increase building size and cost (and through size, environmental impact)
  • I was concerned that with a jump all the way to 1.5 we might see developers doing things with unintended consequences to meet the standard
  • I’m not sure we automatically want to accommodate multiple bikes/person in multi-dwelling units (just as I wouldn’t want to a minimum standard to accommodate multiple cars per person). Living compactly involves some trade-offs!
  • With anything beyond 1.1, I’d want to start thinking about trade-offs with reducing auto parking, and that was beyond the scope of this process

So with 1.1 accommodating one bike for everyone who owned a bike, I thought we were at a good compromise point.

There may well be areas of the City or other specific circumstances where more parking might be desirable. But I don’ t think we can get there without some additional research and RICAP is not intended to be the umbrella for significant policy investigation.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing preventing a developer from creating MORE than the minimum number of spaces (indeed, there are even some incentives). Let the market speak!


One comment

  1. […] in a Fred Meyer parking lot, a downtown parking garage, or in residential buildings. The current recommendation to adjust the bike parking ratio in apartments and condos is only an interim step to what I think needs to be a much deeper exploration of how to manage this […]

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