Finding a parking spot in most major cities is like playing a competitive sport: With too many cars vying for too few spaces, ruthlessness can often trample civility. But that may not be the case for one neighborhood in Portland—well, as long as the ride is a bicycle.
Currently under construction in the city’s Lloyd District, a cycle-centric apartment complex named Hassalo on Eighth has 1,200 bicycle parking spaces in its design. That’s believed to be more than any other apartment building in North America. The firm responsible, GBD Architects, is considering adding even more.
Bike Portland reports that each of the 657 apartments will be assigned at least one designated bicycle spot, leaving several hundred more that developers are confident will be in heavy use.
“Since the project location is really at the crossroads of two transit lines and surrounded by pretty affluent and well-established neighborhoods, we have been looking at the parking facility as being more of a bike hub for the neighborhood,” says GBD’s Kyle Andersen. He envisions the project serving commuters and shoppers in addition to residents.
It’s too early to tell how many more spaces may be added, but Andersen says his hope is that the hub will include a bicycle valet and an on-site repair service.
“It’s really a trend that we’re seeing in terms of housing development or apartment complexes,” says Carolyn Szczepanski, director of communications for the League of American Bicyclists, a national cyclist advocacy group. “This desire to have a bicycle in your life is really starting to dictate the way cities are developing.”
Hassalo on Eighth is a natural fit in a city already ranked as the most cyclist-friendly in the country, according Bicycling Magazine. Portland’s bicycle traffic across four of the area’s main bridges has increased a staggering 322 percent since 1991. Currently, about 6 percent of all of Portland’s commuters bike to work, outranking any other major U.S. city at a rate that’s about 10 times the national average.
Portland may be leading the nation in cycling enthusiasm, but residents in other regions are pedaling fast to catch up.
Dear City 3.0 is a crowdsourced website that lets residents in more than 350 urban areas around the world chime in on important civic issues. Globally, the most often-repeated message left by users is a plea for more bike lanes.
“This is by far the most popular topic in any city in the word,” the project’s developer, Mikael Staer, told FastCoExist. “Everywhere you click in, that's probably the first thing people are talking about.”
The convenience of biking past car-clogged streets, however, is almost incidental in comparison with the economic benefits that can be reaped by those who cycle regularly. Once again, the city of Portland proves it. Between 2002 and 2008, when cycling increased by 40 percent, bike-related industries brought $90 million to Portland’s economy and provided locals with almost 1,200 jobs.
Even on an individual level, cycling can be its own economic stimulus package. The average annual cost of operating a car in the U.S. is $8,220, whereas the annual cost of maintaining a bike is $308.
Public health care also gets a significant boost from bicycles. A November 2011 study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that if 30 million Midwesterners replaced half their short car trips with cycling, 1,100 lives and $7 billion in mortality and health care costs could be saved each year.
The most obvious gains, however, are those that affect the environment. In Europe, a 2011 study from the European Cycling Federation found that the EU could slash its transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent if citizens from every EU country cycled as much as those in Denmark, where the average person logs almost 600 bike miles per year.
It’s going to take time for car-loving U.S. citizens to reach the feverish levels of love that the Danes have for cycling, but we’re making some strides in that direction.
“Over the past five years especially, there’s been a significant rise in bicycle participation and bike commuting as evident in the federal data that we see,” says Szczepanski. “And there’s been a real sea change in seeing bicycling as a real attribute and something that people are looking for in a lifestyle.”
Still, most major U.S. cities have been slow to catch up to the demand for better bike lanes. But at least if you live in Portland, you’ll have plenty of places to park.