Lack of electrical outlets at Portland parks

I’m curious what BP Forum users think about the fact that e-bike riders have very little to no publicly-accessible places to charge their bikes. This is a topic that has come up when talking about the newly opened Gateway Green - a park in the middle of I-84/I-205 where there is zero driving access. A friend of BikePortland, Shawne M., said he wants to bike his e-cargo bike and family to the park but since they live in southwest it would be a big journey on his one battery. He wanted to charge at the park, but it turns out there are no outlets.

Parks Bureau says they didn’t consider e-bike charging in the initial plans. Now Shawne is trying to hustle and maybe bring an e-bike charger to the park.

Seems to me we could use a network of bike chargers around the city.

Any ebikers on here care to chime in as I develop a story about this? Thanks in advance!

I 110% oppose to the placement of standard always-live 120v receptacles accessible to anyone strolling along in any public property. Many fast food places have removed well intended customer-use receptacles from counter-seats. Some places have removed 120v service receptacles from public restrooms due to the kind of activity they bring and clientele they bring that is not consistent with the purpose of business.

In an ideal world, a self serve gas station or retail store based totally on an honor system would not result in drive-offs or shoplifting. An e-bike charging that utilizes a 120v receptacle would require a parking meter like station in which a remotely mounted, locked secured relay box is used to enable/disable power to the outlet in order to not increase loitering and other “unwanted persons” activity within parks.

This sort of thing might be better done in collaboration with local businesses where charging outlets are made available and technical measures, such as a timer switch kept behind the counter or payment driven to restrict their usage to paying customers only. Otherwise, unintended consequences that annoy other visitors, neighbors and attract unwanted persons activity will result.

Thanks! I hear you and I am well aware of the theft of this type of thing. People are stealing all sorts of publicly owned utility assets all over the city and it’s really a big bummer. That being said, I don’t think that’s a reason to not provide this type of service. Seems like there’d be a way to solve the problem with technology and maybe some sort of locked access.

I hope you are not right! But I hear you. I know how pesky folks can be when they want access to something that’s in the public right-of-way.

There’s some indication that my prediction is right:

I think the right idea might be to build a charging box built into one of those very secure, fully enclosed bicycle lockers and keep the receptacle box turned off and relay box placed well out of reach to electricity thieves. I’m fond of Smart Park/BikeTown like billing system but let’s see if local businesses can be brought in as partners, such as the ability to have the charging fee waived if you dine out at nearby restaurant. By having the receptacle within de-energized via a pole-mounted or underground control box, it keeps it from attracting electricity thieves, or other unwanted persons, thus avoiding any crime increasing or property value eroding visitors into the area.

Portland Parks & Recs have built a reputation for failing to enforce remaining in parks after closing hours and non-park related use of parks without permit and other prohibited activities such as using fires in park. No way outlets should be installed unless the parks will make it remotely activated and include a condition allowing it to be entirely removed so that it can not be pressured by homeless advocacy agencies to extend access to beyond e-bike charging that creates public nuisance.

I am curious - are you envisioning a free source of juice, or would this be a place where you pay for the privilege? That seems like an important clarification.
I know there are places where EV drivers are rewarded with free juice but that model seems like an ill-advised subsidy both for e-cars and e-bikes.

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Hadn’t thought of that. A small fee seems like a good idea. Then again, why not subsidize e-bike riders a bit?

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For the same reason that we should never have subsidized electric cars. Or Energy Star appliances. Those who buy this equipment are the wealthy. Why don’t we instead of subsidizing consumption, subsidize those who are much more directly helping to solve the problem without buying an expensive widget - those who don’t own an auto? those who don’t have children? those who have the lowest water or gas or electric bills, etc.?


Actually a major factor to subsidizing Energy Star is to stretch the capacity of the grid rather than just all the Carbon Footprint hype.

There is the theory of Energy Star, and then there’s the practice. They have at times diverged distressingly. We can talk about that if you want - and there is plenty of hype. We in this country tend to subsidize environmental consumption practices that make rich people feel virtuous, and the net effect of these subsidies doesn’t move the needle much and sometimes the effect is the opposite of what people assume.

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I think e-bike charging is a great idea. (Being able to plug in a phone or a laptop is nice, too.) I don’t have any insight to offer on making the implementation safe and available for everyone, nor on the maintenance. But I like the suggestion.

I don’t like controlling access through advertising (like electric car chargers do) or validation (like parking). I loathe having to interrupt and beg an overworked, impatient clerk to do me a favor – enough that I usually don’t bother. And I despise having to pretend that I want some trinket or engage in a commercial transaction that’s irrelevant to the thing I actually want/need. And forcing those kinds of subjective judgments upon low-wage workers is invariably going to create a biased and unequal experience for users. Fully automated fees are a lesser displeasure, but that usually requires a credit card or similar. Maybe those kinds of access control are unavoidable though, for the reasons others have offered?

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It seems that the easiest solution for this particular problem is to simply get a spare battery.

However, it would be a good idea to make bike charging interoperable with EV car charging so that you could plug in a standard J1772 or through some dongle make the whole EV charging network available to you. Many of these are commercial but for a bike it would cost pennies to charge. Some are in fact free and for bikes charging times would be rather short.


I like that idea of making sure any car charging infra includes specific outlets for bikes. I’ve been quietly pushing Forth (oregon EV nonprofit) to be more bike-oriented whenever possible.

Also, just posted the story that inspired me to post here about this in the first place -

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A 110v outlet can put out 1kW or about $0.10 of juice per hour. Charging a dollar to enable the outlet for one hour would be a minimal fee while also paying for itself. Of course dealing with money adds all sorts of complications…


But bike manufacturers could help here too. I know a J1772 port on an ebike would be really clunky so an adapter will be needed.

A 500Wh battery which is a pretty good size for an ebike would cost 20 cents to charge on the Blink network for example. Depending on the charge rate, this could take between 10 and 30 minutes.

I think e-bike charging is a great idea. (Being able to plug in a phone or a laptop is nice, too.) I don’t have any insight to offer on making the implementation safe and available for everyone,

Absolutely positively not. Have you given any thoughts to what “always active” receptacles would do to a neighborhood livability? You’re not only going to have e-bike chargers, but you may find yourself at the same situation as bottle return places where unintended users overwhelm legitimate users and service becomes less accessible to legitimate users. When you go to places like the BottleDrop, the people causing the queue time are generally not people returning empty containers of beverages they bought and consumed.

Without controlled access, it would also become the place where bike thieves charge their angle grinders and Sawzalls

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The amount of power needed for quick charging an EV is an order of magnitude greater than a normal outlet can handle and this is why they need specialized charging stations. Batteries in practice don’t act like water bottles. So you can’t take an empty 500Wh capacity battery, throw it on a 3kW charger and expect to have it at 100% charge in 10 minutes.

Charging rate is dramatically slowed down on the top 25% of so of capacity. It’s also very harmful to the batteries to actually discharge them near 0% of raw capacity. EVs try to avoid using the top margin and bottom margin of raw capacity and “user capacity” falls in between the margins. e-scooter and e-bike batteries are absolutely not rated like this. If you had a battery pack with 1,000Wh raw capacity with rated capacity of 500Wh with user capacity mapped between 20-70%, you could get 500Wh charged on a 3kW charger in 10 minutes.

Something that really helps with the lifetime of a battery pack is a charging controller that can stop charging at 75% or so and use the power in 25-75% capacity band for day to day and only charge it to 100% of rated capacity when you really need it. Realistically, I think charging power needs to be limited at about 1kW output to not cause problem with tripping breakers on a circuit that have other things plugged in as well. If you have a 1kW charger and a 1kWh battery pack and you charge in the 25-50% band, you can actually gain true 500Wh in 1/2 hour at Starbucks while nursing your coffee. Most coffee houses have outlets for customers with laptops.

Your point is well taken, and I went out of my way to point out that I’m offering nothing to address that issue. Even so, I like the charging idea in concept, and wanted to express that.

I like having bathrooms in parks, sheltered transit stops, benches to sit upon, multi-use paths for movement and recreation, and other such niceties. All of these, too, have proven to be attractive nuisances. We’re not going to solve homelessness or crime right here in this thread, but I reject the idea that the solution must be to make everything so terrible that nobody will ever use it, or to forever eschew amenities because they might be misused.


If anything, I can say that what works in one place won’t always work in another. I’m sure the interior designers that designed the Taco Bell on NE Weidler and NE 7th thought the outlets on the counter seats that were put in when the store was renovated was a good idea perhaps based on how they were perceived in their suburban stores. These outlets have been removed and replaced with blank plates… and you can probably guess why.

Some “homeless advocate” type participants in one community meeting suggested the idea of introducing free public WiFi in Portland and cited City of Hillsboro. This is an example of complete disregard for location context. Out there, you don’t usually see “restrooms are for customers only”.

Go to Ghettoway Fred Meyer at 102nd/Glisan and the bathrooms are locked and “customers only” like restaurants downtown. Unthinkable for a big box away from the city center. It obviously has to do with shop lifter and drug law offenders.

People who live up in Southwest Hills perhaps don’t quite see the nuances of what goes on in East Portland at night, or what happens in downtown past their 9 to 5 office job.

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I’m trying to figure out what the point of such a trip would be. Probably not going to be riding the trails / features on a cargo bike. Are they hauling separate kids’ bikes there on the cargo as well? I mean this scenario, combined with living on the complete opposite side of town from the park, has got to be an extreme edge case of GG use.

And it also begs the question… did they forget that MAX is just a half mile up the trail?

3 Likes covers it pretty well. The family in the story did haul along a kid’s bike with the cargo, and MAX doesn’t serve where they live. They’d have to bike to MAX and leave the cargo bike locked and unattended at the station, so that kills that idea.

Maybe bus would have been an option? I don’t know how bad the routes and connections would be. At times when I’ve wanted to go SW<->E, I found bus routes poorly-served enough to just drive instead. Looking now, if you wanted to get from Maplewood area up to Gateway Green there are no good transit options. The best recommendation is to get up to Beaverton and MAX from there, which is a circuitous 90 minutes for what ought to be a 25 minute trip. Unfortunately typical.

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