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Business cycles

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Thursday, March 27, 2014
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Consider Cambia Health Solutions, formerly the Regence Group. Jackie Yerby, the health care group’s sustainability program manager, says a grassroots group of commuters has consistently lobbied for more support from their employer. At their urging, Cambia has added locked bike parking and started offering discounted gym memberships for bicyclists who want to use on-site showers but not other workout equipment. In the past few years, employees have grown increasingly vocal about seeking support for their bike commutes, Yerby says.

Across downtown Portland, Elemental Technologies is using its bike-friendly policies as a recruiting tool — one that bicycle coordinator Emily Barrett says boosts the bottom line. When the software firm expanded into new headquarters in 2013, it opted for a building on two bike routes and told employees that bike parking would be free while car parking was not on offer. Workers can use on-site bike-repair kits, and Elemental subsidizes car-sharing memberships for workers who want a four-wheel safety net. By spending $19,222 to encourage bike and bus commutes, Barrett calculates that the company saved $209,437 in 2013 — mostly on parking costs.

Kevin Moore, a senior program manager recruited from Illinois three years ago, says he didn’t take his job because of Elemental’s support for bike commuters, but he’s more likely to stay as a result. Before taking the job in Portland, he weighed an offer in the San Francisco Bay Area — but was turned off by the traffic and long commutes.

“Elemental’s bike benefits are of great value to me,” Moore says. The city’s mild weather, bike-oriented street network and the existence of a repair shop midway between his home and the office also help. “And the fitness component can’t be overstated. When you bike every day, you’re basically forcing yourself to exercise 10 times a week.”

As enthusiasts decide where to live and work based in part on bike-ability, developers have taken note. A focus on bicycles and pedestrians, for example, underpins a massive effort to transform the Lloyd District from a commuter destination to a round-the-clock neighborhood.

Kyle Andersen, principal and designer at GBD Architects, says a four-block multi-building development now being erected along Northeast Multnomah Street will have parking for 1,200 bikes — at least 50% more than city code requires. Some spots will be set aside for residents of the project’s more than 600 apartments, with other parking designated for stores and office workers. Andersen says the $250 million project, dubbed Hassalo on Eighth, will have more bike parking than any other development in North America.

American Assets Trust, the San Diego real estate company developing the Lloyd District project, had bikes in mind long before it broke ground in 2013. The company was a leading advocate behind the 2012 transformation of Northeast Multnomah Street. Multnomah had long been a 1970s-style, four-lane, car-centric road, and striped bike lanes had done little to slow traffic or encourage bikes. At a cost of roughly $200,000, the city eliminated two lanes of vehicle traffic, widened bike lanes and installed barriers to separate bicycles from cars. According to the Lloyd Transportation Management Association, bike commuting climbed 25% along Multnomah in the year after the road’s overhaul.

The Lloyd Center shopping mall also wants in on the action. Long defined by its monolithic walls and street-facing parking lots, the mall’s owners are considering overhauling a parking garage on Multnomah to make the building more bike and pedestrian friendly. Mall officials did not respond to calls from Oregon Business, but in January they told bicycle blog Bike Portland that they are working to design a “human-friendly” entrance on Multnomah Street.

A similar focus on bike infrastructure can be seen across the city. Many existing retailers and restaurants want more bike corrals, and emerging bike corridors like North Williams Avenue are drawing a steady flow of development dollars. The city’s central eastside industrial district has blossomed since the Eastbank Esplanade expanded bike access a decade ago, with the 97,000-square-foot Eastside Exchange office building drawing headlines when it opened late last year. And Bike Portland reports that upscale Pearl District condo buyers and low-income residents of subsidized housing projects alike are demanding more bike parking.

“Projects I worked on 15 years ago, if bike parking was required, we included it just to meet code,” Andersen says. “Now we’re not just meeting code, we’re meeting demand. It’s a marketing choice, not altruistic.” Even as urban planners and city councils embrace bike culture in other U.S. cities, that consumer demand is unique to Portland and the Northwest, Andersen says. He laughs that his firm recently completed a Les Schwab Tire Center project — with on-site bike facilities for employees.



 

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Guest
0 #1 RE: Business cyclesGuest 2014-04-04 17:10:05
Very good article. I would add that Cambia also organizes the Portland Employer Bike Summit. The third annual event is Friday, May 16th from 1-4pm. Registration will open up soon.
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Guest
-1 #2 CommentorGuest 2014-04-07 22:44:36
Among Portland's unique cycle businesses is Stites Design, which designs and builds front-wheel drive, electric-assist ed cargo trikes capable of carrying 600 pounds. Using these in urban areas would significantly reduce pollution from trucks. And provide good exercise for delivery drivers See http://www.stitesdesign.com.
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