Is The Clackamas Regional Center Ready for Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare?

Is the Clackamas Regional Center ready for dockless bikeshare and scootershare? I have been asking this question ever since I moved back to Oregon last year.

Small Group Activity at APBP Conference

My fellow panelists from Chicago and Ottawa and I wanted to get help from our audience to answer the question. Before I share how we used an interactive group activity, the below photo shows my panel. While we had been emailing for months to coordinate our presentations and group activity, I met Maggie and Matt in person for the first time during the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Conference in Portland. I am not sure when our paths will cross again.

APBP Panel

APBP Conference panel from left to right (Ray Atkinson, Maggie Melin from Chicago, Matt Pinder from Ottawa)

We used a small group activity during our session at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Conference in Portland last Monday. Our audience was large enough to form six small groups of about eight people per group. This was a good amount of groups for my fellow panelists and me to walk around to each group to answer questions and provide guidance.

APBP Small Group Challenge

Small Group Activity at APBP Conference

All of the groups agreed that it is not safe enough to bike or scoot in the Clackamas Regional Center. Since the Clackamas Town Center parking lots should be less stressful to bike and scoot through than being on the surrounding roads, every group pitched using the parking lots to provide a safe route for biking and scooting. Yes, everyone realized that the parking lots are privately owned so the property owner would need to agree to the plan.

Harmony Campus to Clackamas Town Center

Map of Clackamas Regional Center. Created by Ray Atkinson using Google Maps.

Average scooter trip

Preparing the Clackamas Regional Center for dockless bikeshare and scootershare

Even though I have seen scooters from Portland’s first and second pilot programs ridden and parked in the Clackamas Regional Center, Clackamas County does not have a scooter pilot program. Yes, I already discussed this issue in this April post. While Clackamas Town Center has a Happy Valley address, it is officially in unincorporated Clackamas County so Clackamas County would need to create a scooter program.

I also want to note that I have no solid evidence about how many scooters from Portland’s pilot programs have been ridden and parked in the Clackamas Regional Center. I asked the City of Portland for this data and they would only share the below map, which only shows scooter trips inside the City of Portland. While they realize that scooters from their program have been ridden and parked outside the City of Portland, they have not shared any data to help me with planning efforts in Clackamas County. Since the scooter companies want to avoid fines, they are likely not sharing data about scooter trips outside the City of Portland so the City of Portland likely does not have this data.

As the below document shows, which I found in Ordinance 2174, the City of Milwaukie annexed Harmony Road to SE 80th Avenue and Clackamas Community College (CCC)’s Harmony campus on July 16, 2019. If the City of Milwaukie decides to continue their scooter pilot after the current pilot ends next June and expand it citywide then the newly annexed area will be included in the scooter pilot. While CCC has not taken an official stance on scooters, I have already been talking with the City of Milwaukie so we can both be ready when Milwaukie decides to include Harmony campus in their scooter pilot.

Milwaukie Annexed Harmony Campus

Milwaukie annexed Harmony Road to SE 80th Ave and CCC’s Harmony Campus

Since Harmony campus is adjacent to unincorporated Clackamas County, many CCC and Clackamas Middle College (high school) students, faculty, staff, and visitors travel between Harmony campus and the Clackamas Town Center MAX Station, TriMet buses and the CCC Xpress Shuttle are not reliable enough to compete with the car, and Harmony campus may have to build more car parking if enough people do not shift to other modes, I believe Clackamas County will receive pressure to allow scooters in the Clackamas Regional Center. I am vice-chair of the Clackamas County Pedestrian and Bikeway Advisory Committee (PBAC), so I am helping Clackamas County staff prepare for this pressure. I will be presenting about this potential pressure during the PBAC’s September 3 meeting.

Studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam

While I appear to have an endless supply of ideas to blog about, I will need to shift my focus through November on studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam. I registered to take this 3.5-hour exam on November 10. Since I did not pass the exam on November 10, I plan to keep studying and take the exam again in May. I will continue blogging after passing the exam.

Planning for People Over Cars in Downtown Oregon City

Since I am the Transportation Advisory Committee’s representative on the Downtown Oregon City Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Implementation Working Group, the City of Oregon City invited me to join this group on a tour of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City. In case you are unfamiliar with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, I recommend watching the below video.

Even though the working group knows we need to prioritize people over cars because there will not be enough space to park all the cars on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project site, I found it interesting that the first thing the tour guide showed us was where cars would be parked on the future site. The tour guide even shared a specific location for the interim on-site surface parking lot and an estimate on the number of cars that could be parked in this lot.

While I assumed the tour guide was referring to parked cars because most people in Oregon City drive, he only said “parking” so I asked the tour guide to clarify what type of parking and whether there would be parking for bikes. My assumption was correct that he was only referring to car parking when he said “parking”. Thankfully, he said there would also be parking for bikes because the City requires bike parking. However, he was unable to provide a specific location for bike parking and how many bikes could be parked.

According to the below diagram, car “parking supply at full build-out of the site is estimated at 1,150 spaces off-street, and 85 spaces on-street.” Even though the City requires bike parking, I could not find any diagram for bike parking. This shows me that the project vision prioritizes car parking. On a positive note, minimum car parking space requirements may be reduced by up to 50% because the site is part of the downtown parking district.

In addition to being excited to hear about the potential for a 50% reduction of car parking, I was excited to hear that City staff are considering whether to remove mandatory car parking minimums in the downtown parking district. While I am sure there will be internal and public resistance, City staff want to give developers the flexibility to decide whether or not to include car parking in their projects. City staff said the mandatory car parking minimums have prevented many downtown developments from being built because the projects could not pencil out. As the below map shows, there is an international movement to remove car parking minimums.

While I was not satisfied with the tour guide’s answers, I was told that we would discuss bike parking more at a later point in the planning process. Even though I am used to bike parking being an afterthought in Oregon City, I was still frustrated that I had to ask for “parking” to be clarified and request that bike parking be discussed. Do Dutch and Danish planners have to ask for this clarification or do their tour guides automatically specify which type of parking?

As you know, I will be presenting on a panel at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) Conference in Portland on August 26 from 1:45-3:15pm (here is the agenda for August 26). Several Dutch and Danish planners that I have communicated with will be at this international conference, so I plan to ask them the above parking question.

Ray’s Behavior Change from 2009-2019

While I now get frustrated about having to clarify “parking” and request that bike parking be discussed, this shows how much I have changed over the past ten years. As I wrote about in this 2014 post and the below 2009 article shows, I used to advocate for cars by supporting the widening of North Carolina Highway 3 in Kannapolis. I said the below statement during my senior year at Northwest Cabarrus High School and just a semester before I started at UNC Charlotte. I was actually one of the few residents that supported the widening project. As this article shows, most people opposed the project because they wanted to maintain the rural character along this section of Highway 3. They felt widening Highway 3 would bring too much dense development and traffic congestion. Since I tell people that I was raised in a suburban area, it feels weird to see the articles described my home as being in a rural area.

Not everyone was opposed to the idea of a wider N.C. 3. Ray Atkinson lives about a mile off of the highway.
“I think it’s good to plan for growth,” Atkinson said. The N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis would benefit from the proposed improvements, he added.

Front Page_Hortizontal3

Kannapolis Citizen article from January 28, 2009

Translating My Kannapolis Experience to Oregon City

Even though most people on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City tour saw me as the bike advocate, I am curious how much their perception of and interaction with me would have changed if I shared my Kannapolis experience. In addition to advocating for cars in Kannapolis, I experienced the closure of Cannon Mills (aka Pillowtex) in 2003. I have followed the redevelopment of this closed mill site into the North Carolina Research Campus. The redevelopment has also included areas beyond the closed mill site in Downtown Kannapolis. This redevelopment had such a large impact on me that I studied it for my high school senior exit project in Fall 2008. The Willamette Falls Legacy Project and redevelopment of Downtown Oregon City reminds me of my work in Downtown Kannapolis.

High School Senior Project

Mrs. Andersen, who was my high school teacher and advisor for my senior exit project, and I looking at a 1950s map of Kannapolis, NC in Fall 2008.

Translating My Tigard Experience to Oregon City

I also see similarities between my work in Tigard and Oregon City. As this 2016 post shows, my PSU planning workshop team consulted for the City of Tigard and worked with State of Place to conduct a walkability study in the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard. The Downtown Oregon City TDM Implementation Working Group plans to work with City staff to conduct a walkability and bikeability study in Downtown Oregon City. I plan to write a future blog post about this study after it launches.

Columbus at Eye Level

“Columbus at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. My family vacation is coming to an end. My parents and sister (brother had to stay in Charlotte) dropped me off in Columbus earlier today so they could drive back to Kannapolis. I am at the Columbus Airport waiting for my flight back to Portland. While I did not enjoy spending days in my parents’ van instead of biking, my grandmas are not getting any younger so I felt the need to spend time with them. Grandma Stoodt is on the left in the below photo, which was taken at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Since my grandma uses a walker, I was thankful that the trail was ADA accessible.

While I have not thought about visiting Columbus before, I urged my family to visit Columbus during our vacation because Columbus won the USDOT’s 2016 Smart City Challenge. Since I thought Columbus would use some of the grant funding to create dynamic pricing for parking, I was surprised to learn from Robert Ferrin that about 1% of the grant funding has been used for upgrading the parking system. Robert and I met at UNC Charlotte when we were geography students. We both were born and raised in the Charlotte region.

Short North Parking Changes

My dad and I met with Robert about the Short North parking changes that he managed. Short North is a Columbus neighborhood located between Downtown Columbus and Ohio State University. Even though Robert showed us how he improved parking conditions in Short North, the responses to the below survey question appear to show that people do not understand how the parking changes improved the parking issues. Does Columbus need to better educate people about the benefits of the parking changes?

71% of survey respondents think the recent changes make parking harder for customers in the District.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

RayRay’s

I found another restaurant with my name! I was not even trying to find it. As you may remember, I found Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar in Philadelphia.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

I need to board my flight back to Portland, so I am going to publish this post.

Can Artistic Bike Racks Meet Rigorous Design Standards?

Since I doubt the standard approach to bicycle planning will encourage more people to bike to Clackamas Community College (CCC), I have been thinking of creative ways to entice people to bike. While I could install standard bike racks, this will not create the visual shock value I am seeking. CCC has a Welding Technology Program with teachers that are American Welding Society-certified professionals, so I am partnering with welding teachers to have them teach their students how to weld artistic bike racks. While I am excited about this partnership, I need to be cautious about how the artistic bike racks are designed. This is a major reason why most bike planners only install standard bike racks. Can artistic bike racks meet rigorous design standards?

welded artistic bike rack

Artistic bike rack being welded. Source: StarHerald.com

The main welding teacher has expressed excitement to have a real-world project for their students to work on. He invited me to present my idea to everyone in the Manufacturing Department at the October department meeting. Since my position is not located in the Manufacturing Department, I feel honored to help break down silos by presenting to a different campus department. While I want to give the welding teachers and their students full artistic freedom, I need to ensure the artistic bike racks meet rigorous design standards. I have not worked with welding teachers and students before and have no welding experience, so I am curious to learn how feasible this process is. I am thankful the Manufacturing Department is open to considering my idea.

Since this is a perfect opportunity to include placemaking, I plan to suggest placemaking ideas be included in the artistic bike rack designs. Placemaking could include showing pride in CCC or Oregon City. CCC’s main campus is located in Oregon City, which has a rich history because it is the End of the Oregon Trail. If possible, I want to include this history in the artistic bike rack designs. The below artistic bike rack on the Trolley Trail in Milwaukie, OR is an example of placemaking because the bike rack was designed to showcase the Trolley Trail’s history.

milwaukie-bike-rack-art

Artistic bike rack using placemaking in Milwaukie, OR. Source: OregonLive.com

You may be wondering why I feel it is so important to create artistic bike racks and have welding students create them. Since I feel it is challenging in an American suburb to entice people to try biking, I feel it is important to create a visual shock value. Standard bike racks cannot create this visual shock value. I chose to have welding students instead of an off-campus bike parking company create the artistic bike racks because I assume the students will want to use the bike racks that they create and show them off to their family and friends. While an off-campus bike parking company is more familiar with bike rack design standards, their employees will not use the bike racks. Plus, I hope to save CCC money by producing the artistic bike racks on campus.

Since creating artistic bike racks are not free, I am currently applying for a grant that does not require a financial match. Grant winners will be announced on November 19, 2018. What do you think of my idea?

Dockless Automobiles vs. Dockless Bikes

I’m following up on my last post, which discussed Capital Bikeshare and dockless bikeshare in the Washington, DC region. While I agree that dockless bikeshare companies should be held accountable to making sure their bikes are parked correctly, why aren’t dockless automobile companies being held to the same standard? Dockless automobiles have been parked illegally for decades. Where is the public outrage? Why is most of the public outrage focused on dockless bikes?

Here are several examples:

Capital Bikeshare vs. Dockless Bikeshare

As a resident of Arlington, I have a unique location to watch Capital Bikeshare “compete” with dockless bikeshare. I put “compete” in quotes because the mutual goal of Capital Bikeshare and the five dockless bikeshare companies is to get more people biking. However, some bike planners believe dockless bikeshare will pull enough people from Capital Bikeshare that it won’t be able to compete with dockless bikeshare.

Since bikeshare is still new to most Americans, I want to make sure everyone knows the difference between dock-based and dockless bikeshare. As the below photo shows, dock-based bikeshare systems require the bike to be docked at a station. Capital Bikeshare is the main dock-based bikeshare system that operates in the DC region.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

As the below photo shows, dockless bikeshare systems have bikes that are self-locked. The five dockless bikeshare companies operating in the DC region are Jump, LimeBike, Mobike, ofo, and Spin. While Jump is the only company with e-bikes, LimeBike and Spin announced last week that they plan to start offering e-bikes soon.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

While all six bikeshare systems have apps, which are shown below, it’s possible to use Capital Bikeshare without the app by purchasing a pass at the kiosk. Since not everyone has a smartphone, this reduces the barrier to bikeshare. In addition, only Capital Bikeshare can be used by paying cash. Many low-income people don’t have a credit or debit card, so this gives them access to using bikeshare.

Capital Bikeshare vs Dockless Bikeshare

Source: Transit App

I have a unique location to watch this bikeshare situation because of how the permitting process is unfolding across the DC region. While Capital Bikeshare is permitted to operate throughout the region, only DC has given permits to all five dockless bikeshare companies. As this Greater Greater Washington post explains, DC and Montgomery County, MD had an easier process than local jurisdictions in Virginia to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs because they are governed by Home Rule. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means state law preempts local law. Local jurisdictions must receive permission from the General Assembly to act on local matters. Yes, Maryland is also a Dillon Rule state. However, Montgomery County became the first county in Maryland to adopt a home rule charter in 1948.

Since DC is geographically small and dockless bikeshare companies have been struggling to inform their customers that they don’t have permits to operate outside of DC, I have been watching how human behavior and government processes react to this issue. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which is impacting the ability of local jurisdictions to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs and regulate the dockless bikeshare companies. This is why Virginia doesn’t officially have dockless bikeshare yet. Arlington wrote this blog post to educate people about the different types of bikeshare. I found the following statements interesting.

“the six-month trial of dockless bikeshare is entirely a DC project at this time. The operators do not have an agreement with Arlington County so their operating location is within Washington, DC borders.

If you see a bike in Arlington, you can contact the operator to collect their bike to take back into DC, or you can ride the bike back into the operating location (JUMP bike offers a $1 credit every when a bike is ridden back into the operating area).

This is all still very early in the experimental phase so there is no telling right now how policies could change.”

If this wasn’t confusing enough, only four of the five dockless bikeshare companies have permits from Montgomery County, MD to operate in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. I believe the fifth company, Jump, has decided not to expand to Montgomery County yet because it wants to focus on DC. None of the dockless bikeshare companies have permits to operate elsewhere in DC’s Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Plus, they can’t operate on National Park Service (NPS) property. This is important because the National Mall and regional trails like the Mount Vernon Trail are owned by the NPS.

Dockless Bikeshare

Map of dockless bikeshare’s service area in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, MD. Source: WashCycle

Even if the NPS gave permits to the dockless bikeshare companies to operate on its property, e-bikes are banned from NPS-owned trails. However, I haven’t seen this ban enforced and it doesn’t appear to be discouraging many people from riding e-bikes on trails. I am curious to see whether this controversial NPS ban becomes more heated as LimeBike and Spin join Jump in having e-bikes.

Since many regions throughout the US are working on dockless bikeshare regulations and permit programs, I want to share the below regulation breakdown from Twelve Tone Consulting. The North American Bikeshare Association published the Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Preliminary Guidance in January 2018.

Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Breakdown

Source: Twelve Tone Consulting’s Dockless Bikes: Regulation Breakdown

Dockless bikeshare parking issues have been reported in many locations, so look at Dockless Bike Fail’s tweets for photo evidence. What do you think about the issues I have discussed in this post?

Walking, Biking and Riding Transit in Portland, OR vs. Washington, DC

Since my car-free travel behavior has changed dramatically between Portland and DC, I want to compare how my walking, biking, and transit riding habits have changed between living in Portland and now living in the DC region.

Except for the few months in late 2015 and early 2016 where I fully depended on walking and riding transit in Portland because I felt too anxious biking, I mostly walked and biked for all my trips in Portland. I was planning to also mostly walk and bike throughout the DC region because transit is expensive (not as expensive as owning and maintaining a car). While I still walk and bike in the DC region, my boss provided me with a transit card for work trips so I have been riding transit much more than I planned to when I moved here. My boss also provided me with a Capital Bikeshare maintenance key (no time limits like normal keys) for work and personal trips so I haven’t been riding my private bike as often. Since I can’t carry my panniers on Capital Bikeshare, I have been mostly using my private bike for getting groceries and other shopping trips.

Biking in Portland vs. DC region

I don’t live in DC so, while DC has bike racks almost everywhere and the bike racks are usually designed correctly, I have experienced no bike racks or poorly designed bike racks often in Arlington. The below photo shows a ladder or wheel bender rack at a grocery store near my home in Arlington. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with bike parking issues when parking a Capital Bikeshare bike because I have always found an empty dock.

 

Since I depended so much on the DC region’s great trail systems when I lived in the DC region during summer 2014, I was looking forward to depending on the DC region’s great trail systems again. Even though I rode a road bike last time I lived in the DC region, anxiety from my extreme fear of heights has gotten much worse so I have been struggling to ride on hilly trails like the Custis Trail and trails along steep cliffs like the Four Mile Run Trail. Since I doubt I will conquer my fear of heights soon, I’m planning to buy a $3-4,000 recumbent trike so I can reduce the anxiety I feel when biking on hilly trails and along steep cliffs.

 

While the trails are great for long-distance trips, they don’t go everywhere so I still have to use on-street bike routes. I forgot how bad most of the on-street bike infrastructure is in the DC region. Yes, I know DC has protected bike lanes, which are actually better than any protected bike lanes in Portland. However, protected bike lanes in the DC region are on very few streets so I rarely ride on them.

I’m missing Portland’s neighborhood greenways. I used to live at SE 27th and Salmon, which is on a neighborhood greenway, so I memorized the neighborhood greenways. I rarely had to ride on busy roads outside of downtown Portland because neighborhood greenways went almost everywhere. Thankfully, I have found one element of neighborhood greenways in the DC region. Sharrows are found throughout the DC region. Even though the DC region has installed sharrows, which is a critical and cheap element to Portland’s neighborhood greenways, the DC region has horrible wayfinding for cyclists so the sharrows aren’t part of a neighborhood greenway. Due to this, I feel sharrows are only used in the DC region to communicate to cyclists that the government believes that the street is safe enough for biking and to communicate to motorists that they should expect to see cyclists using the street. Sharrows do much more than this in Portland so I miss biking on Portland’s neighborhood streets.

Before I totally dismiss the DC region’s on-street bike network, I’m excited to share that the DC region has several Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) maps. As all the below maps show, the DC region has plenty of work to do to make their on-street bike network feel more comfortable and less stressful. However, I find these maps much more useful than normal bike maps. This is mostly because a normal bike map shows all bike lanes the same while a LTS map shows bike lanes by how comfortable or stressful they are to ride on.

Arlington County, VA 2017 Bicycle Comfort Level Map (click to download front and back of map)

Montgomery County, MD Bicycle Stress Map (click to view map)

montgomery-county-lts-map

According to a presentation by Stephanie Dock, who works for District DOT, at the Transportation Techies meetup in October 2016, District DOT will be publicly releasing their LTS map soon so I’ll add their map when it’s released.

This blog post is getting long. I try to keep my blog posts under 1,000 words and will go over 1,000 words if I keep writing this blog post. While I still want to compare how my walking and transit riding habits have changed between Portland and DC, I may have to write about them in a new blog post. Readers, do you want me to write about my walking and transit riding habits in this blog post or start a new blog post?