Cycling to transit, Portland vs Ottawa


In the earlier planning stages for our LRT Stations, we imported an expert from Portland to tell us how many cycle parking spaces we should provide.

Nice gig. Flight. Accommodation. Meals. Per Diem. Additional item under “professional experience”.

And he dutifully told us (if I remember correctly): 5.

Or maybe it was 12.


Whatever the number, it was ridiculous. It was lower than the number of bikes visibly parked at the transitway stations back then. And the conversion to LRT was supposed to attract even more people to do the first/last mile [kilomtre] to the station.

I felt embarrassed he hadn’t bothered to check out what parking there already was at Ottawa stations. Instead, just sell the yokels the info as to how many spaces Portland provided. Centre of the white bread universe and all that. Ottawans couldn’t possibly bike more than PORTLANDers.

The recommendations were ridiculed, and our Councillors upped the number of parking spaces to be provided.

Although we haven’t been privileged enough to see the final station designs to count the spaces, except for Lyon Station, which has … six car parking spaces:


I wonder if it is time to do another update.

The little bike garages at the transitway stations seem to be popular.

Very very full. Overflowing, in fact. It is easy to spot cycles parked nearby. Or even a block or two away, where riders feel there is a higher probability of “eyes on the street”.

This could be a nice contract to Parsons or someone.

Or a volunteer could ride along the route and do an actual count on a pleasant day.

Naaah. That couldn’t be reliable or accurate or reasonable or scientific. Only a P.Eng. could be trusted to do that.

But it would still be interesting to know.

What if dear readers snapped a pic of the bikes parked at their station and forwarded them? Crowdsourcing in action. Naaah.

Now just where is the nearest spare “parking permitted” sign post I can attach my bike to?

5 thoughts on “Cycling to transit, Portland vs Ottawa

  1. I do a fair amount of biking. I often have trouble finding a suitable place to park/tie up my bike. I instinctively avoid the crowded “bike parks” as I feel (perhaps unjustifiably) it may be a more inviting place for “joy riders”. But I admit in the suburbs at transit stations tying up to the nearest tree or signpost may not be an option.

  2. I often find that there are no suitable places to park my bike when I head out around town. It would be lovely if there were some actual bike lockers at our new transit stations. I’d feel much more comfortable leaving my bike for an extended period of time if it was secured in a cage. I’d even be willing to pay for the privilege. Something like would be amazing.

  3. The Vancouver Translink studies on biking are probably the best in North America. I don’t remember if they had parking needs calculations as it’s been many years since I’ve looked at them. Similarly, the WMATA (DC) bicycle and pedestrian access study does a decent job of classifying stations by type, creating a framework, and basing the framework on those factors that shape pedestrian and bicycle trips to stations.

    Obviously, the “number” thing as relayed about Portland is pretty stupid. (FWIW, Montreal has a much greater percentage of trips by sustainable means–walking, biking, transit–than Portland.) You can’t just look at a station and say “5”.

    Percentages/recommendations need to be based on your regional bike plan goals for percentage of trips by bike and the necessary accommodations to make that real. E.g., in Vancouver the goal is 20% in the city (I think) and less in the suburbs. That means bike parking at end of trip destinations. And in this case, at transit stations.

    I haven’t been to Ottawa, but using the approaches suggested above, there are two elements: bike trips to stations; and bike trips generally. Depending on the length of the trip, many bicyclists won’t bother with a transit leg.

    I still don’t think we have adequate definitive guidance about bike parking for transit in the US. Chicago CTA is good about providing space within stations. Boston MBTA is good about high quality accommodations outside of stations. So are West Coast places, especially the BART system and increasingly, LA MTA. NYC has bus shelters dedicated to being bike parking. (Personally I don’t know how useful they are, but they also display the city bike map.)

    WMATA has significantly improved the amount of (unprotected from the elements) bike parking outside stations, and they are adding bike rooms at new stations and some legacy stations, but they aren’t putting bike parking within stations (behind faregates) unlike CTA, but it happens that many stations have unused space where such parking could be accommodated without impinging on rider throughput within stations.

    Oh there is an amazing system in Victoria State in Australia. The same system is used at transit stations and other locations across the entire state. The system for access is not sub-state (jurisdictionally) specific.

    I haven’t kept up with the bike parking guidelines in Toronto nor their documents, but when I was looking at them about 5 years ago, they did a great job about differentiating between types of parking, access, and level of securedness.

    1. Richard: thanks for the detailed reply. Sorry you didn’t get the contract to provide the input when it was being done. As to how much and where the parking will be at our stations, we (the users) wont know until the stations are officially unveiled at some ceremony this summer, but the final unchangeable construction contracts have all been let … what could possibly go wrong?

  4. Here’s another example, from the Bay Area BART system. They are now planning for 10% of users to get to transit stations by bike. That means accommodating bike parking.

    Also I did counting of official racks at the Takoma Metro Station here. That’s my station and it is on the outskirts of the city in a comparably more suburban area of the city and it borders Montgomery County, Maryland.

    Anyway there are about 65 bike racks — for 130 spots — and something like 20 bike lockers — for 40 spots. Plus there is a bike share system.

    The station has between 5,500 and 6,700 riders/day (depending on the year). Clearly, they aren’t providing accommodation for up to 10% of riders initially arriving by bicycle.

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