Bikes and Transit

The relationship between bikes and transit has been much on my mind of late. Last week we heard the news that TriMet would invest $1M to upgrade existing bicycle parking and provide 250 new parking spaces at Light Rail stations and transit centers.

And Thursday, our friends in Portland’s Transportation Options group are hosting a brown bag session on the topic.

But primarily I’ve been thinking about this because as a member of the Bicycle Master Plan steering committee, I just finished chairing a working group on integrating bikes with other modes. You can find our recommendations memo to the steering committee here (PDF, 20K).

Fundamentally I think we’re at a cross-roads. We have saturated the existing capacity to put bikes on board transit vehicles on popular lines at rush hour. While we can (and should) work to increase capacity, it’s NOT going to scale at the same rate that cycling will.

That means we need to look toward parking at key stations and transit centers. But the cycling community is resisting this (see http://bikeportland.org/2009/02/12/trimet-to-request-funds-for-bike-parking-improvements-public-comments-sought/).

The parking model is widely accepted in Europe (there is a floating bike parking structure at Amsterdam’s central rail station that holds thousands of bikes). Indeed, some people even have ‘station bikes’ that they store at the work end of their transit commute trip.

I suspect part of the difference is that in European cities, folks commute on low-value bicycles (i.e., beaters), where here we invest a lot more in our commuter bikes.

Can we shift our culture to the ‘station bike’ and parking model? What will it take to do this?

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