Repeating the Sins of Other Modes

One of my favorite ways to start the day is a brisk bike ride to breakfast (I love breakfast sandwiches and wraps – feel free to forward recommendations). One morning this week I headed out to check out the new Roman Candle Baking Co. on Division (five stars – killer granola bowl!).

On my approach, the first thing I noticed was no parking staples on the sidewalk. But then I saw the bike parking in the parking lot.

Two classes of bike parking
Two classes of bike parking

There was beautiful covered bike parking! And a sign indicating video surveillance! (Actually, based on other signs the entire parking lot area was monitored.)

But then I was disappointed to discover the covered parking was already full…

The total bike parking picture was a covered wave rack for five bikes (BTW – wave racks were generally disdained at our wonk night) and another uncovered wave rack for three bikes next to it (where I parked). A bit further down, adjacent to the entrance to the next business, there was another uncovered 5-bike wave rack.

Here’s the puzzle – at 8am there weren’t enough customers in the bakery to have filled up the covered parking. So either folks not using that particular building are squatting there (tempting), or (more likely – and someone let me know if I’m wrong) the covered parking is being taken up by the employees of the bakery.

Now I’m not saying employees deserve lower class bike parking (indeed, their security needs may be higher), but this reminds me exactly of the phenomenon I encountered in the auto parking debates in NW Portland. Business owners would complain about a lack of on-street parking for their customers, but would then allow the employees (and sometimes the owner him/herself) to take up the parking spaces near the entrance of the business.

It would have been great if ALL the bike parking on the site had been built to the same higher standard. And while I might not want to relegate employees to a lower class of parking, it’s perfectly fair to put employee parking further from the entrance – employees will be there all day, they can walk a little bit. In this case, there’s an area at the back of the parking lot (also under video monitoring) that would be perfect for some covered staples for employees.

Potential location for employee bike parking
Potential location for employee bike parking

But if you’re going to be putting premium parking right by your entrance, you really want to manage it for use by customers – that’s just good business!


16 responses to “Repeating the Sins of Other Modes”

  1. Ah, very cool you stopped by there. It’s a great joint. I live barely a block away and am there regularly. The bike racks are routinely consumed by the employees of Roman Candle and the other businesses that are located in that building (there are more than the two you can see from the street). In addition there is minimal parking for bikes near the car-free apartments also, which has street level businesses. Matter of fact, let’s lay this out real quick.

    Roman Candle*, Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda, Caffe Pallino, Kuava House, Detour Cafe, Artigiano, Salt & Straw* and other businesses along this street ALL have significant numbers of employees that bike to work. All stats that the city has zero way to measure – pumping up bike commuter numbers even higher than they appear in trending analysis. The #4 brings nobody to work that I’ve observed to any of these businesses. It does however bring customers. The irony is, there is this big complaint about the supposed lack of auto-parking in the area, which may one day exist. Currently though the only REAL shortage of parking is for cyclists along this route. During the course of the day all the parking, corals, bike racks on sidewalk and more are routinely filled up along with all the signs and posts of sorts along the way.

    The cycling traffic in this corridor is only posed to explode even more with the Clinton Street bike corridor connecting directly to the bike highway over the new transit/ped/bike bridge.

    Anyway, that might shine some insight on this area. It’s heavily, HEAVILY trafficked by bikes.

    A few more tidbits.

    One thing I noticed about people – that are obviously not Portlanders – is they tend to come in two different ways to the area to eat, drink and be merry. The Vancouverites who can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other come by car. People from New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities almost always come by cab. On Friday and Saturday night Pok Pok has an almost unending stream of Taxis bringing 1, 2, 3 and sometimes 4 or 5 people to Pok Pok. The line doesn’t end until late and the businesses across the street also routinely have taxis dropping people off. This is a great thing considering many, if not all partake in good beverages over there. Usually not to the point of “drunkiness” but it sure beats em’ trying to drive to and fro.

    Overall, in the near future it appears that two major things will have to happen at some point.

    1. Something is going to need to be done with the automobiles on Clinton that use it as a thruway to 39th. They speed and more than a few end up just blowing through the stop signs and pass dangerously, ESPECIALLY during rush hour when Clinton Street is packed with an unending stream of cyclists going by. I do mean unending too. Often spaced side by side or one after another, sometimes packed together. But from about 4-6pm the road should be primarily cyclists, the motorists pose a dangerous risk and are not following the intended corridor of Division.

    2. Transit service is going to need bumped up as well as bicycle amenities along this corridor. If the apartments that are car-free are truly going to attract people without cars (which there is reasonable estimation that a number of people there will actually be car-free) they’ll really need to have some bus service, and right now the #4 is not particularly frequent nor is it reliable. Maybe that’ll change one day but right now… damn it’s frustrating when there is commonly a gap between buses that exceeds 30 minutes when they’re supposed to be *frequent*.

    • Agree with all of your points. Especially with the degradation of Clinton as a safe bikeway with all of the increased cut-through car traffic. I’ve noticed this for over a year now. Is anybody at PBOT or City Hall paying attention to this?

      As to the lack of reliable and frequent transit service during evenings and weekends, that’s hardly a Division-only phenomenon. Frequencies in this city drop off a cliff after 7-8 pm on weekdays. (Even restoring 15-minute “frequent” service is kind of a joke). Portland’s non-SOV mode share will never grow substantially without major improvements, including re-instituting actual night bus service. Transit is frequently never an option for me going out because of the fears of getting stranded (or having to pay $$$ and wait forever for a taxi that may never show up). Bicycling is great but I shouldn’t have to rely solely on it if I don’t feel like driving somewhere.

      • In the Division St rebuild, there was much discussion of auto traffic diverting to Clinton. The staff promised that, after the Division rebuild, they would look at how Clinton was performing, and perhaps think of ways to reduce auto traffic on Clinton.

        I’m thinking that since there are already traffic circles and speed bumps, the next escalating step is diverters. Perhaps a full diverter at 27th, and maybe at 38th? Maybe some half diverters?

  2. Well, of course. Cars don’t sin; modes of transportation don’t sin:
    People sin.
    The first folk to arrive, often the employees or owners, are going to take the best spot, based on human nature.
    Fortunately, a bike corral can fit 10 or more bikes in the same space as one car parking spot. There is plenty of room for these business to expand bike parking off-street. And Portland has been slowly but steadily adding more on-street bike parking corrals.

  3. Has it occurred to people that Division between 12th and 39th has developed too quickly and too densely? Clinton will only get more cars. We have built new, dense apartments
    whose residents drive. As long as the restaurant craze continues, people will drive.
    You can’t pack that many people into a formerly residential neighborhood and not expect these issues to continue and worsen.

    • Presumably if everyone drove, I would have found room to park my bike in the covered parking :-)

      I have two worries for Division:

      1) That the change is happening too fast. I like the direction and pattern of the development (even if some of the buildings could have more interesting design), but the rate of change is very stressful. I’m not sure in a capitalist system how manage the rate of change for allowable development. Put a limit on the number of building permits issued per year in a district?

      2) I think the attempt to deal with parking pressure by changing the zoned minimums was off-point. What we really still need to do is put in a system to manage the on-street parking. Once that regime is clear, developers will have a much better idea how much parking they need to build to satisfy their tenants/buyers.

      • Chris, the increase in housing construction in recent years was heavily influenced by the lack of construction during the recession. Would you support public subsidies to keep housing construction going during down times, to go along with limits during up times?

        And, is the pace of change really the problem? Was the one building that went up on Fremont too fast? The two buildings that went up in Hollywood? I don’t see any evidence that the people protesting against new housing care at all about the pace of change. I think they see any change, any unfamiliar faces or lifestyles or income brackets as a threat.

        Finally, if the rate of new housing needs to be managed to mitigate impacts on neighborhoods how about bars, restaurants, and businesses? They all have impacts too, sometimes vastly greater than mere housing.

        • My concern about the rate of change has two bases: I’d prefer to see development distributed around the city rather than flocking to whatever the ‘it’ corridor is at the moment (Williams seems to be next) and I worry about the political blowback risk of too much change to fast. Giving people time to adjust may make the introduction of more concentrated land uses go down a bit easier.

          • Chris:

            I am very encouraged by your remarks about the pace of change and the emphasis on “it” neighborhoods. That is my concern in a nutshell, and while I do not speak for the Neighbors for Responsible Growth groups- I think your remarks are a good start at reaching some consensus.

            As I ride on the sidewalk down lower Foster, past the “jack shacks” and vacant buildings, I ask why the new buildings did not go there. Why is my old neighborhood a crowded mess, while Foster begs for development?

            I once told you in person that if you are not making developers cry, you are not doing your job. We need to wait for Foster to get built out before we allow development in already nice residential neighborhoods. (same with other pockets- build out the wastelands and leave Beaumont alone).

            Yes- I am political blowback and I am a nice liberal who is worried about climate change. Boy, I can see some ferocious
            blowback coming if the approach to density continues to center on pleasuring real estate interests and telling neighbors to suck up the loss of air and light for the greater good.

            BTW- if builders starting building tall buildings in my little town center I am going to organize a boycott of any new businesses
            in buildings I don’t like. Salt and Straw et al are walking fine lines by paying rent to developments that aren’t popular in the neighborhood.

            Anyway, Chris S., again, I appreciate your remarks about the location and pace of change. We should resist any accomodation of builders by zoning changes in “it” neighborhoods as long as there are nearby places that beg for development.

            • One possible explanation (well, perhaps two, but they’re related) is that Foster has no trees whereas the “it” streets uniformly do and that the existing uses on Foster are much more car related.

              It’s not just that they are expecting the customers to drive but that they provide services and supplies FOR cars not for othrt human needs.

            • It is difficult for the city to decide which equally transit-served commercial street that they would like development on. 30 years ago, Hawthorne, much of Belmont, much of Division and much of Foster (and many other commercial corridors) were zoned for commercial development. So why did development on Division take off. One reason I’m told was that, compared to Hawthorne, land on Division was cheaper. Hawthorne was already a known shopping destination, and a hip place to be. Division was not.

              So, with no zoning changes, restaurants started appearing on Division, presumably because it was cheaper than locating on Hawthorne, but nearby. I didn’t see that same thing happening on Foster. Perhaps it’s because Foster is such a long stretch of commercial. Perhaps it’s because Foster is too wide (both the street and the sidewalks), to “feel” like a cozy neighborhood street. Perhaps Foster has a reputation like you describe.

              For many reasons, with the same zoning, Foster didn’t take off. You do see some signs of it changing recently, but it’s slow.

              If Division and Williams were downzoned would this cause Foster and other streets to suddenlly become the hip places to be, hip enough that developers wanted to build 4-story buildings there, knowing that people would pay high rents to be there? I’m not at all sure that would happen. Hollywood is now getting apartments, but not near the Transit Center, which would be the best for increased transit use. Will that happen?

              Changing zoning to try to direct the market is a clumsy tool, and it is in no way certain that it will have the intended effect.

              And as for insulating “nice neighborhoods” from multi-family development. It’s because it’s such a nice neighborhood that many people want to live there. It’s because there are such abundant commercial services that people want to live there. The developers are responding to the demand, as you would expect them to do.

              It’s the Planning Commission’s job to direct growth to where it accomplishes city goals, such as reduction in auto use. Directing growth to Division St does this. Even if these new residents have cars, they use transit at a higher rate than the surrounding single-family house dwellers (comparing the parking study and existing traffic figures). If new buildings get built along Foster, there might be the same effect, but perhaps not so much because it’s a longer bus ride, and because there are not so many shopping destinations within easy walking or biking distance.

            • You seem to be advocating for some sort of Soviet-esque central planning scheme where the government tells everyone where they can and can’t live.

              Developers are building in areas where people want to live. Why shouldn’t we let them?

            • Foster has trees. It also has light industrial sized buildings along a lot of it’s frontage that are in good shape and are being put to good use (Rollaway, George Morlan, etc.)

              Personally, I think development is stymied in the area not because of the width of Foster or the auto uses, it’s because the rest of the city (and to some extent some of the myopic locals) only experience the area through Foster, without noticing the rest of the historic bones and form that are in place to support neighborhood scale commercial and multi-family housing development.

              In my neck of the woods we have a main street. It isn’t Foster and it never has been Foster since the commercial district first existed in the late 1800’s. It’s intersected by Foster and it is now know as 92nd Avenue. It has all the bones and structure that Division has, but because most people are so focused on Foster and don’t take a look north or south (which is actually a better orientation for a ped street from a solar access standpoint) they don’t notice that there’s a better main street right in front of them. In addition, there are multiple streets that parallel 92nd that can easily be developed.

              The same holds true for the area around 72nd and Harold. Which has much better urban form for neighborhood scale/serving mutli-family and commercial development.

              The only spot along Foster that is actually anchored to Foster in the sense of commercial district form is the area around Laurelwood Park, and even that could easily be developed by paying more attention to Holgate and the numbered streets rather than trying to orient everything to Foster.

  4. I think the change is great. The street is booming. It’s making up for decades of stagnation, of a street dominated by abandoned and minimally converted gas stations, and former garages. We live at Harrison and 35th Place, and would rarely think of driving to DIvision. We walk or bike down to Hedge House or Victory or Division Hardware. I don’t know how slow change would have any different effect. If X number of buildings are going to be built, then why stretch it out over a decade, for a decade’s worth of construction? Better that several buildings are under construction at once, and then things can go back to (the new) normal, and people can adjust to that.

    As Adron noted above, the issue seems to be not a lack of car parking, but of bike parking! Hopefully when the Division Streetscape project finishes up next summer, the added bike parking will help with that.

    And if anything, the neighborhood is getting more residential, not formerly residential. That is, there are more residences going in, primarily right on Division but some on other streets, so while the amount of retail space is growing, the number of residents along the street is growing much faster. Perhaps it’s not the right type of residential for some people, but it’s residential.

  5. The changes are happening and will continue to happen. At least they are happening on under-utilized streets rather than clustering along major boulevards like Powell, Foster, Burnside, Broadway, MLK, Interstate, Grand, Sandy.

    But, you say these are precisely the places best suited to redevelopment and densification. Perhaps from a purely automotive standpoint. But what these streets lack is walkable, crossable streets and a low speed environment which encourages bike and pedestrian transport.

    So take your pick: smaller disused neighborhood corridors becoming small neighborhood commercial or sprawly highway-commercial strips accessible via car and bus? This is the lesser of two evils.

    BTW bike parking can expand painlessly with corrals. Adding additional car parking has been a multi-decade debate (see: NW) in some cases, and almost always hated by anyone besides a developer.

    • Kittens, what do you think of Broadway west of 16th street? I think it’s very accessible whether by foot, bike or car. I don’t think a pedestrian friendly environment is inherently incompatible with heavy auto traffic, but it does require some things:
      – frequent traffic lights for safe crossing
      – timing of lights to reduce congestion
      – centralized public parking, instead of lagoons

      The other streets you mention aren’t that way, but I don’t see why they couldn’t be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *