Communities are installing bike racks to encourage alternative ways of getting around.

The racks are called “temporary Bike Corrals,” and, in recent years, have appeared more frequently around the country.  One was erected at Salem’s First Wednesday event on June 5th on the north side of the 300 block of Court Street.  The installation was made possible by a collaboration between Fox Blue Printing, Bike Peddler and Venti’s restaurant.

The City of Salem will take over after this, providing corrals for each of the next three First Wednesdays (July 3rd, August 7th and September 4th).

Proponents say there is a lot to like about the installations.  “Bike Corrals replace one-to-two on-street parking spaces, and are proven to increase foot traffic and spending in downtown environments,” says David Fox, owner of Fox Blue.  “A recent report stated that Portland now has 97 Bike Corrals,” and business owners have requested an additional fifty.

By 6:00 p.m. on June 5th, 20 adult bikes had already parked in the corral that used two on-street auto parking spaces. That side of that block of Court Street has just 20 parking spaces total, which meant that bikes represented a 100% increase in available parking.

Fox first kicked off the process by purchasing two special event parking passes from the City for the day.

Gus Frederick, another local who sees value in an “increasing number of folks opting to use bikes in an urban setting,” contributed by recording all the bikes that used the area with a digital time-lapse video.  He had “several still cameras take extended sequences of images… once every 15 seconds.” When the images are played back at 30 frames/second, the result is fast-motion “time lapse” footage that compresses eight hours of activity into a minute of screen time.

Frederick’s goal was to visually record all the bikes that used the corral.  He says he believes in the concept, “… best summed up by the Latin phrase ‘Plateae pro Populi,’ meaning ‘Streets for People,’” which he sees in increased use of alternate forms of transportation, including bikes.

“In recent months,” Fox adds, “there has been a lot of discussion over downtown (car) parking, and the   third (car) bridge.”  Though these are important topics, Fox feels transportation planning should not focus always on auto-centric design.  He points to Goal #12 of the Oregon State Planning Goals, which states, “A transportation plan shall . . . avoid principal reliance upon any one mode of transportation . . . “

By recognizing the relevance of cycling and walking through our planning, “we essentially decrease congestion and free up parking spaces downtown for those who choose to drive,” Fox believes.  “It’s really that simple.  Good transportation planning doesn’t force anyone out of their car, but poor transportation planning does force people into cars who might otherwise have good cycling infrastructure and transit as choices.”

Salem bike advocates hope to see a 3-month demonstration project on the 300 block of Court Street to assess current need for a Bike Corral.  “That should be sufficient time to study its popularity and use,” according to Fox.  “If it works, we keep it.  If it doesn’t make sense, we can remove it.”

Although the City informed Fox that future requests like his, to purchase the special event passes to secure space for the Bike Corral, would “require greater scrutiny via a Special Events Advisory Committee,” Fox believes that the City of Salem is interested in a permanent corral.  He supports the idea of a three-month study.

“A demonstration project serves as a real time, real world study that costs little to implement and negates the need for speculative studies and expensive out-of-town consultants.”