With an increased interest in green living and a push from the suburbs to the urban core, it’s no surprise that many apartment complexes are embracing bicycle-friendly initiatives at their properties.
“In the city, it’s becoming more and more attractive for people who are bike riders to commute. We’re recognizing that and making our buildings much more bike-friendly,” says Bruce Percelay, chairman of The Mount Vernon Company in Boston.
Adding to the forward movement are initiatives by some cities that mandate higher levels of bicycle parking at multifamily buildings.
According to Daniel Simons, principal at San Francisco–based David Baker Architects, the city’s code requirements have helped bicyclist amenities become more mainstream. “Now, you have to do it, so do it in a way that’s functional and really usable and an amenity for the people who are living there,” he says.
Even in cities that aren’t regulating increased bicycle parking, efforts are still being made to encourage the greener mode of transportation, says David Senden, principal at Irvine, Calif.–based KTGY Group Inc., Architecture & Planning. “It’s a trend across the country that cities are making it easier for people to ride their bikes, with bike lanes and increased bike parking in front of retail. If cities are going to do that, you’ve got to make it easy for people to store the bike when they bring it home.”
With more tenants looking for these features, it’s up to property owners and managers to offer a solution beyond just a few bicycle racks or a neglected storage room in the corner of the basement.
According to Siri Preston, a sales representative at Dero, a bicycle-storage solutions company, more multifamily properties are working to raise the bar when it comes to accommodating bicyclists.
“People are looking for parking that will accommodate the ever-rising number of cyclists with products that are long-lasting, organized, U-Lock compatible, and add to instead of take away from the aesthetics of their property,” she says.
The options for bicycle storage are numerous, ranging from community parking to space built into resident units. Which to implement largely depends on the market—for example, outdoor solutions won’t work well for a cold climate. But the common consensus is that whatever option a property manager chooses, it must be clean, secure, and convenient to encourage tenants to use it.
KTGY has implemented a variety of storage and parking options in their projects, says Senden, from large community bike rooms to mounting versatile "gear walls" in apartments. One building has runnels incorporated onto the side of the stairways so that residents can easily push their bicycle up and down the stairs.
David Baker Architects has also utilized diverse solutions to meet varied needs, such as visitor bike racks, bike rooms by the property entrance, and more private storage lockers that require a key fob to access. “We’ve also proposed wall racks in the corridor on each level, and we’ve done smaller, secure rooms on a per-floor level so it’s more dispersed and fewer people have access to each room,” Simons explains.
Added Value—For Residents and Owners
To really go above and beyond for their bike-owning residents, apartment operators should think about what tenants will need besides just storage. To that end, David Baker Architects has incorporated a bike repair kiosk, equipped with basic tools, in many of its communities, says Simons. “In a rental apartment or condo, there’s not a lot of room to flip your bike upside down and work on it, so providing space for that in the bike room is important,” he points out.
Communities are also increasingly supportive of people who may not own a bicycle but still want to ride one sometimes. Mount Vernon’s Green District buildings are part of Boston’s Hubway bike-sharing system, Percelay says, with a bicycle rental station on-site. “The Hubway station at our building is one of the most used stations in all of Boston,” he adds.
Similarly, bike-sharing company Zagster recently announced a partnership with the Domain Cos. to provide services at three of the firm’s properties in Louisiana and New York, with plans for expansion later this year.
As green living continues to grow, bicycle-friendly amenities will become increasingly important for many tenants, says Simons. “We’re definitely seeing renters not so much just looking for a traditional rental housing amenity package with a gym and a conference room. Being in a vibrant, urban neighborhood is an amenity in itself, and bike parking is part of that.”
While it may require a greater investment for owners to provide truly resident-friendly bicycling amenities, the efforts will pay dividends, says Percelay. “The benefit is higher occupancy, tenant retention, and attracting a better tenant.”