Meet Jeff. He’s a 25-year-old engineer who works long hours shaping the future of technology. Jeff’s employer allows him to work from home three days a week, and since he doesn’t own a car, he rides his bicycle when he needs to commute to the office. Ditto for visiting friends. He takes his electric cargo bike to the grocery store or camping with his girlfriend and their shared rescue dog on the weekends.

Jeff’s neighbor is Leanne. She’s 31, a financial analyst, who works on-site five days a week; married with two young children; and a hectic schedule. She and her husband want to fit in more physical activity; run errands by bike (60% are within less than a mile); and ride with their children.

Jeff and Leanne represent an increasing segment of the housing market, particularly in and around urban centers. While their day-to-day lives may be different, both ride bikes and contribute to growing demand for bike-friendly housing, storage, and amenities.

Smart developers are planning for this growing cohort of tenants by designing buildings in a way that makes riding a bike as easy and convenient as driving a car.

The future is here; and it’s going to need somewhere to park its bike

Car ownership and the desire to drive are way down, especially amongst the next generation:

  • In a 2022 US News and World Report survey on driving habits 61% of respondents indicated that they drive less due to the price of gasoline, and 49% drive less now than they did pre-pandemic. 
  • “Across the globe, hopping on a bike (either electric or traditional) is how most people prefer to get to work. Almost 70 percent of respondents in the recent Mobility Ownership Consumer Survey stated that they were willing to use micromobility vehicles for their commute.”
  • GenZ, the largest and most diverse in American history, doesn’t want to drive a car: According to The Washington Post, “In 1997, 43% of 16-year-olds and 62% of 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2020, those numbers had fallen to 25% and 45%.” Even elder zoomers are delaying or forgoing a driver’s license entirely: Almost 90% of 20- to 25-year-olds were licensed in 1997; in 2020, that statistic was down to 80%.

So what does this mean for property development?

“There’s an amenities arms race between new construction and older buildings.” This is coming from Richard Cohen, the President of Velodome Shelters, a company that designs and creates bicycle storage rooms and stations in an interview he did for a New York real estate blog. “It used to be just a washer and dryer, then it was the fitness rooms, and now most buildings have bicycle rooms. In older buildings, they have empty space that’s used as bicycle rooms, but they waste so much space and it looks like a jungle.”

The car-centric model is going out of style. If developers aren’t making their properties bike friendly, especially in urban areas that serve young professionals and families, they will become less competitive.

Over the past decade, developers in American cities have begun to take Cohen’s advice to heart. HASSALO ON EIGHTH in Portland, OR is a mixed-use project that includes the largest bicycle parking facility anywhere in the country. The project was buttressed by its location in the “Lloyd EcoDistrict,” a coalition of local organizations working to create “the most sustainable living-and-working district in North America.”

And HASSALO goes way way beyond slapping in some racks and providing showers for commuters. The project plans to offer residents:

  • Space for 1,200 bicycles, nearly 20% more than the 1.5 spaces per unit required by Portland law. Bike parking is spread between a “bike hub” with 820 spaces and secure storage space in the three residential buildings.
  • Plans for an on-site bike valet service, which will also include optional bike tune-ups
  • A bike workroom where residents can repair bicycles in a shared facility.
  • A bike washing area, where residents can wash bicycles on-site in an area with a movable hose.
  • Vending machines for replacement bike parts.
  • Shower and locker room facilities (of course).

Further north, Kemper Development has built a bike commuter “lounge” in its Bellevue Collection, a 4-million-square-foot retail, office, residential and hotel complex in Seattle. “We’re not just putting a rack over in the corner and bolting it to the floor and calling it good,” said Kemper President Jim Melby, whose bike lounge will include bike racks, lockers, shower rooms and a vending machine that dispenses energy bars and spare bike tubes. The investment for these bike amenities: $300,000. While the price-tag may be daunting at first, consider that $300,000 isn’t even enough to build ten car spaces in a parking structure. 

Progressive developers consider future tenant needs such as:

  • The type and number of bikes they might own
  • How and when they’ll ride them
  • How they want to maintain and repair them
  • Where and how they want to store and access them

Remember Jeff and Leanne? With residents like them in mind, developers can create low-cost, high-impact amenities that really pay off financially – and in resident satisfaction.

Consider Peloton, a three-building, 265-unit multifamily “community” built in 2018 in Portland, Oregon. The building is named for a group of bike riders, and its amenities and features are, aptly, community and bicycle-focused. Residents enjoy a padded bike storage area with racks and lockers and a “Bike Club” complete with workbench, repair stand, and TV.

The “Bike Club” at Peloton. Take a virtual tour to explore more.

“Peloton Apartments has performed exceptionally well throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, averaging over 96% occupancy, even with the elimination of concessions. The property also has an active waitlist for select units,” said Vice Chairman and Head of the Cushman & Wakefield’s EDSF team in the Pacific Northwest, Dave Karson in a recent article. “Each of the buildings are centered around a dynamic woonerf street, which offers a shared space for pedestrians and events and provides connectivity between the buildings, throughout which the property’s full suite of top-quality amenities are housed.”

Via6, a 654-unit mixed-use apartment project in downtown Seattle facilitates car-free living with secure bicycle parking and a bike wash station for residents, plus a bike shop on the ground floor. The developers also added amenities for employees who work in the building to help make bike commuting more attractive. These include secure bike storage, an area for bike repair and washing, and showers.

Via6 bike parking that’s secure and convenient.

In some places, bikes themselves are getting spoiled too. The best garage bike facility we’ve encountered is the Lloyd Cycle Station at HASSALO ON EIGHTH. Used by building residents and open to the public, the facility holds 1,200 bikes and boasts a bike wash station, on-site mechanics, and a lounge complete with a big-screen TV.

Lloyd Cycle Station

Lloyd Cycle Station holds 1200 bikes and boasts a TV lounge.

Bike-friendly housing isn’t simply about being green. It’s about recognizing the trends in transportation and reacting to the growing market need to expand offerings beyond requirements for cars. Right now, bike friendliness is an affordable amenity. Soon it will be a low-cost expectation.

Need help planning bike facilities for your building? Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. They’ve helped design bike parking and facilities for Facebook, Salesforce, Airbnb, Stripe, Pembroke Real Estate, LinkedIn and many others.

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