Cycling survey: secure bicycle parking needed

A survey of Portland State cycling habits conducted in February may give the Transportation and Parking office a clearer picture of student riding patterns and concerns, as well as point out new incentives that would encourage current cyclists to bike more often.

These findings could help Eben Saling, the Alternative Transportation coordinator, to lobby for an indoor, video-monitored, card-access bicycle parking facility in the student recreation center, which will be built at the site of the PCAT building and is hoped to open in Fall of 2007.

“We’ve done surveys like this is the past,” Saling said. “The other surveys led to more bike racks. They helped us support and justify those expenditures. This survey is a follow-up, to help us plan for the future – we’re looking to find out what people are thinking.”

With approximately 500 flyers distributed, 103 cyclists responded to the survey. “We got a pretty good response rate for flyering,” said survey administrator Janel Sterbentz, transportation planner and graduate student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Of the 103 people who responded, 61 percent were male, 77 percent were students (rather than faculty or staff), and 31 percent were between the ages of 26 and 30. Another 27 percent were 21 to 25 years old, and 19 percent were 31 to 35. Although more men filled out the survey than women, there was no statistically significant difference between men and women in their reasons for biking to school, or in the modes of transportation they used on the days they did not bike.

When asked to select their top three reasons for biking to campus, 59 percent of respondents selected exercise as one of their main motivations. “Bicycling is fun!” was another top choice, selected by 58 percent of those surveyed; 47 percent of respondents indicated that saving money was one of their top three reasons for biking, and 42 percent cycled to reduce air pollution. Other motivations included: “Saves time” (29 percent), “Have more flexibility” (27 percent), “Better use of my time” (19 percent), “Do not have a car” (18 percent), “Parking is costly” (17 percent), “I dislike driving in traffic” (14 percent), “I dislike riding the bus/MAX” (13 percent) and “Parking is hard to find” (10 percent).

On average, the survey respondents biked to campus 78 percent of the time, took the bus, MAX or streetcar 12 percent, walked 5 percent and drove 3 percent of the time. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed had a bicycle commute time between one and 20 minutes, and another 39 percent commuted between 21 and 40 minutes by bike. Only 4 percent biked more than 40 minutes, and according to the report, “a significant negative correlation was found between days biked in January and amount of time to bike to school – Bicyclists who take longer to bike to school do not bike to school as often as those who have a shorter route.”

The Office of Transportation and Parking also used the survey to get a sense of the value and condition of the bikes that cyclists rode to campus. Of those surveyed, 37 percent had owned their commute bike for a year or less, and another 23 percent had owned their bike for between one and two years; 18 percent indicated that their bicycles had cost between $300 and $400, 15 percent paid $200-300 and another 15 percent paid $100-200. A total of 20 percent said their bicycle had cost more than $600. Most respondents (46 percent) spent between $1 and $40 on accessories for their commute bike each year, and 41 percent spent between $1 and $40 annually on maintenance.

When asked to select a maximum of three primary concerns about parking their bikes on campus, an overwhelming majority of respondents, 87 percent, chose “Safety from damage/theft.” The next most popular choice, “Whether parking space is covered,” was selected by less than 41 percent of those surveyed; 37 percent of respondents also cited availability of parking spaces as a concern, and 29 percent selected “Distance to final destination.” Twelve percent of those surveyed selected “Ease of use,” and less than 10 percent were concerned about personal safety or whether the parking space was illuminated.

Student fears about bike theft on campus are not exaggerated. According to the 2005 Student Transport Survey, “in 2004, 61 bikes worth a total of $36,371 were taken. This amounts to 5 percent of the bike rider population had their bike stolen, or a 1 in 20 chance of someone stealing their bike from the PSU campus.”

Transportation and Parking is using the data on student concerns to support future expenditures on Portland State’s cycling infrastructure.

“We’re looking into secure, indoor, long-term bike parking, like the Bike Station in Seattle, with the technology to access it with a student ID for extra security,” Saling said. “That would give people a nice, dry place to lock their bikes. We’d like to have plans for that kind of facility in the Student Rec Center, where we’d also have a new space for the Bike Co-op.”

The Bicycle Co-op is currently located in a small space in the University Center Building’s parking garage.

A majority of the cyclists surveyed (59 percent) said they would be encouraged to bike to campus more if it entitled them to benefits like discounts at the bookstore; 52 percent indicated that more covered bike racks would motivate them to bike more often, and 38 percent said the same for more bike rack parking; 37 percent said they would be encouraged by more bicycle services, such as the Bike Co-op, and 33 percent selected “More secure bike lockers or racks.” Of those surveyed, 26 percent said they would bike more often if showers were available, and nearly 11 percent said nothing would encourage them to bike more.

Many people also wrote in suggestions about more abundant, secure and covered bicycle parking.

“We’re looking at covering more existing racks,” Saling said. “The survey is giving us a concept of what to stock at the Co-op, and what the store should supply for the typical bike commuter. From the survey, it looks like people are just buying whatever they need to keep things going.”

Despite the strong support among survey respondents for benefits for bike commuters, like discounts at the bookstore, free coffee or breakfast for cyclists and bike movie nights, Saling does not see any resources for that kind of program in the near future. “We already subsidize the transit passes heavily. We spend a lot of money on passes, and we want to devote the same amount per cyclist as we do per transit user – We see the Co-op as a benefit. We’re not making money off that operation, but it’s a service that exists to make it easier for people to ride their bikes.”

Parking in the secured, card-access facility in the new rec center would not be free for students. “There will be a fee to use the secured facility, to cover some of the expense and to manage subscription,” Saling said. “We hope to have some kind of package deal, so people will get both the parking and shower access at the Rec Center.”

According to Saling, only those cyclists with expensive bikes really need the secured facility. “Most people here don’t spend a lot on their commuter bike, so for the average bike on campus, locking the bike properly with a quality lock at the regular racks should be fine.”

The survey was announced in approximately 300 e-mails to members of the Portland State Bicycle Cooperative and Cycling Club, and on Feb. 7 and 8, eight Transportation and Parking employees spent their lunch breaks attaching flyers advertising the survey to bicycles parked on campus. The online form asked cyclists 15 questions, including how far and how frequently they biked to campus, other modes of transportation they used, the cost and maintenance of their commute bikes, their concerns about biking on campus, and what would encourage them to bike more often. The survey also asked respondents to write their own individual feedback and suggestions.