Portland Racks Up Progress on Bike Initiative
January 21, 2009 -
PORTLAND -- The country is in a recession, but the city of Portland is moving ahead with funding one small project that hopefully will grow big changes: Its bicycle rack effort.
Last year, Portland put in 47 bike racks around the city, including 13 at schools, at a cost of $5,000. It has another $5,000 to spend this year for the cause.
The project is part of Healthy Portland's mission to get Portlanders more active – but it's also part of the larger mission to change the way they commute.
"It fits in with the city's goal of sustainability and encouraging people to bike around, and comes with the cost savings associated with that," said Nicole Clegg, director of communications for Portland. "The city is very focused on encouraging bike riding and public transportation to offset the impact it's had from increased traffic congestion."
In an effort to get bike racks where they're needed, the city is taking requests for locations, so bicyclists can help shape Portland into a more bike-friendly city.
No official surveys have been taken regarding the 47 new bike racks, but Joan Ingram, project director for Healthy Portland (a division of the city's Health and Human Services Department) said the bike racks at Portland City Hall are always full.
"These hitches don't move around. The bikes are more secure now," Ingram said. "People still do use (metal) signs, but bikes can be knocked over on those. When they are locked to a bike hitch, they are more secure, and safer."
Last year, former Mayor Jim Cohen spearheaded the bike rack program as part of his health initiative.
The bike rack project was one of several initiatives related to bicycles that Cohen worked on as mayor, but it's still got momentum, even though his term ended last year.
The project secured three years' worth of funding – or $10,000 – and there is another year (and $5,000) left for the project.
Many of the racks that were scattered about the city, including at some public schools, were ancient and needed replacing, Cohen said.
"The focus was to enable people to be able to commute by bike," he said. "There is inadequate bicycle parking facilities in the city. We got caught up with historic preservation (laws). It got stalled. We spent a lot of time developing a bike rack plan and looking at how it would be compatible with the historic standards."
The city's Public Works Department installed the bike racks, so the first $5,000 covered the purchase of 46 racks of different sizes. The hope is the racks will last as Portland strives to become a more commuter-friendly city.
"It's surprising how much each rack cost. But they are safe, functional, attractive and last," Cohen said. "Anecdotally, I've observed bike racks getting used. And, I've heard many fewer complaints about the absence of bike racks.
"As a city that is very committed to getting people out of cars and commuting other ways, we've got to make sure to invest in the infrastructure. Bike racks are a piece of that."
The city will take requests for where to put new racks until Feb. 28.
If possible, the process will continue beyond this year, until all the bike racks that are needed will be installed, Clegg said.
Cohen said it already is obvious it needs to continue.
"When you look at the list of where they are, there are many more portions of the city that remain uncovered by bike racks," Cohen said. "It is pretty clear that this continues to be an under-served area. Even in places where we have put them, there are not enough bike racks."
DEIRDRE FLEMING, Portland Press Herald, January 15, 2009
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