September is the Bicycle Transportation Alliance statewide Bicycle Commute Challenge, in which Oregon work places compete to see which can bike more during the month, locally, in October, Commute Options host a similar event, the Drive Less Connect—all of which, to us, seems to like a perfect opportunity for the mayor and city council to get and keep the wheels turning for encouraging, supporting and securing more bike commuting.
One simple and very real step they could take in that direction? More bike parking downtown. More specifically, removing car parking spots for bike racks, like what has been done in front of Thump Coffee on NW Minnesota, where the space for one car has been replaced by an area that is consistently stacked with at least five or six bikes.
Yes, there is a need. Certainly, a town that calls itself Bike Town, USA should take the simple step of creating adequate bike parking, and, in doing so, better encourage and support bike commuting. According to the City of Bend's quarterly bicycle and pedestrian count, 90 bicycles were counted crossing the Galveston Bridge from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. On a weekend day, from noon to 2 pm, 196 were counted. Current downtown bike parking is only 150 spots.
The idea for more parking for bikes downtown is an issue that a group of local business owners and advocates have been pushing for the past couple years—and seems like the perfect time and opportunity for some real visible results.
"We've got a lot more people coming into downtown Bend on bicycles and they need a place to park," explains Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options. "I would like to see this happen soon," he says. "But," he cautions, "we need to have a good solid approach."
What is especially interesting about the idea for more downtown bike parking is that there seems to be little arrant opposition to the idea, only perhaps the slow wheels of bureaucracy. In fact, the momentum for more downtown bike parking is supported, if not being actively lobbied for, by some of downtowns highest profile tenants, like Deschutes Brewery, which has suggested removing a car parking spot or two in front of their storefront to create a "bike corral of sorts," according to Serena Dietrich with Deschutes Brewery.
"Adding additional bike parking downtown would allow for the abundance of visitors and citizens alike who enjoy biking throughout this city to enjoy the area," explains Dietrich. "Being such a popular way to get around, it seems the city would want to promote this active and healthy lifestyle and encourage it with sufficient access."
Dietrich did point out that the city has agreed to meet with business representatives in September to discuss the idea.
In addition, in September, the City of Bend plans to update its Parking Management Plan. We certainly hope that September is a tipping point, and that by October we will see more spots for bikes and fewer for cars downtown. Where there is a will, there certainly should be a way.