Rack ’em up

Through the pouring rain it is hard to see a reason for more bike racks. But ask any bike commuter on a sunny day what the parking situation is like and the answer will be the same – there’s not enough.

That is, there wasn’t enough.

Over the winter break 110 new bike racks were installed all over Portland State, the most visible in front of the library and up and down Broadway.

“We want to put them everywhere we can,” said Dan Zalkow, the director of parking and transportation services. According Zalkow, the impetus to put in more racks came “after we saw people tying their bikes to everything.”

The amount of students commuting to school by bike grew over 50 percent between the 2003-04 and the 2004-05 school years. In the fall of 2003, 3.8 percent of the student body came to school on a bike. By fall of 2004, almost 6 percent of students were bicycle commuters. Well over 1,000 people a day look to chain their bike up.

“I think it’s great that Portland State put them in and is supporting cyclists,” said Peter Welte, a junior in computer science, when fixing his bike at the PSU bike co-op. “I hope we can get new bikers to fill up these bike racks.”

While the new racks were being installed, the pre-existing ones were removed, recoated and re-installed with security bolts that require a special tool to remove. All together, the school boasts almost 300 racks around campus, potentially allowing all bike commuters to lock up their two-wheelers.

“I hung my bike from the bars on the windows of Shattuck,” said Gaz Owens on one of the many places he has locked his bike. Owens, a senior in Mandarin Chinese and Asian art history, finds solace in thinking ahead to the warm spring days when there will be enough parking for all. “All the fair-weather nonnies won’t ruin it for the rest of us.”

Parking director Zalkow insisted that the project got its legs from the support of bike advocates in his department including the alternative transportation coordinator Eben Sailing, the bicycle co-op manager Ian Stude and Mitch Pryor.

Stude, a bearded familiar face at the co-op, was enthusiastic when talking about the future of the bike community at Portland State.

“People come to the co-op expressing praise,” he said. He continued, saying the current space, which is only 140 square feet, is in the running to move to a bigger location. The new place would not only be 10 times larger, but would also be a more traditional bike shop, with retail goods and more supplies.

For ten dollars per year, the bike co-op currently offers the use of bike tools and workspace, advice and assistance from co-op staff, and discounted fees for seminars and classes. Parts and gear are also available at a discounted price.

According to Zalkow, the new bike shop could be in place in as little as two years. The co-op has applied to be in the new recreation center slated to be built where the PCAT building currently is. Zalkow has also spoken of building covered buildings with reserved bike parking, and expects that one will be built later this year, possibly in an unused space at Southwest 10th Avenue and Harrison street, behind Montgomery Hall.

Bike transportation accounts for 1.5 percent of the $6 million annual Parking and Transportation budget. An $80 parking pass contributes around one dollar to bikes.