The bike boom is not slowing down and best-of-class bike parking solutions are becoming a competitive advantage. Fortunately, bike parking is a relatively small investment. Especially when you think of the astronomical cost of a parking space: typically $10,000 to $30,000 per space (see Donald Shoup’s groundbreaking book The High Cost of Free Parking for the thorough breakdown of cost factors). Then there’s the monthly maintenance cost per space — usually several hundred dollars.

That’s a big chunk of change for a single car-shaped space that will almost certainly be empty some of the time. In comparison, six to 12 bikes can fit into a single parking space (and as developers already know, a lot of other things can fit into many parking spaces — additional housing units; amenities like gyms; retail).

We’re also seeing a culture shift towards more human-centered design with active transportation components. This isn’t surprising considering 50% of U.S. residents say that walkability is a top or high priority when considering where to live, and, according to the U.S. Census, bicycling has become the country’s fastest-growing form of transportation for commuters.

With car-free developments, like this one in Tempe popping up; with many cities across the country abolishing parking minimums; and with the pandemic-instigated bike boom still surging, we believe it’s time for developers to rethink car parking and start building for bikes.

From dismount to desk

But what do best-of-class bike facilities look like? It’s really about anticipating how bicyclists will interact with your building’s design elements and then ensuring they have a frictionless and pleasant experience.

For workplaces, we like to call this “from dismount to desk” but it applies no matter the bikers’ destination. Here are the 5 things developers should know when building with bikes in mind:

1) Access and routing

Because bicycles can use vehicle or pedestrian entrances to buildings, they often have many routes into a workplace. You’ll need to determine what routes bikes commonly use to get to your building or facility. And then determine how you can enhance existing routes or redirect bicycles where needed (that’s where wayfinding, below, comes in).

The key to access and routing is to make the journey from dismount to desk as easy and intuitive as possible. For workplaces, the ideal flow is bike parking → locker → shower → breakfast → desk in a short, direct line.

We once had a corporate client that required cyclists to use an extremely slow service elevator, and we received many complaints about 30-minute wait times and having to share space with loaded dolleys — far from ideal. The harder and more laborious you make navigation for your bikers, the fewer bike commuters you will have. And the less appealing your building will be.

2) Wayfinding

Showing where bikes go in and around buildings is important for user experience, but also for marketing — colorful murals, hard-to-miss signage, and pavement markings are great advertising for your building’s desirable bike amenities. You’ll want to analyze existing bike circulation at your location or hold user focus groups to develop a comprehensive wayfinding plan.

Casselden Basement Cyclist Facilities, Melbourne Australia

Here are some key pointers for developing top notch bike wayfinding:

  • Naming: The main bike parking area should have a specific name, along the lines of conference rooms or other shared spaces, and be included in all references to building assets. 
  • Branding: Keep branding consistent.
  • Use signs: A few well-placed signs are better than too many. In general signage is needed to indicate where the parking is, and then wayfinding as needed to guide users to the bike space.
  • Have a color scheme: Bright green usually indicates “bicycles belong here.” But you can also use corporate colors and branding. Check out LinkedIn’s “Blue Line” for a great example of a branded bike path.

LinkedIn’s “Blue Line” bike path.

3) Secure parking

Those who ride need to feel like their bikes are safely nestled in an interior room or nook, ideally behind a locked or badge-accessed door. A dedicated bike room is the best option followed by dedicated space inside (think of underutilized spaces like under stairwells or along a wide hallway that can accommodate wall racks). Bike cages in parking garages are less desirable, since they’re often less secure. You’ll want to make sure that the bike parking you install is easy for visitors and tenants or residents alike.

4) Amenities

To be competitive, provide bikers with amenities, especially for office spaces. Here’s the short list:

  • Bike Parking: If you don’t have this, you don’t have anything. There are various kinds of racks, so make sure you install ones that are easy to use and easy to lock bikes to.
  • Showers: For businesses, we recommend shower stalls provided at 1% of headcount, with equal splits if the facilities are gendered. If these facilities are provided as part of an on-site gym facility, they should be located conveniently to the bike parking. 
  • Lockers: Clothing and equipment lockers can be an in-parking amenity or included in an adjacent changing area with showers. Alternatively cubbies or shelving can suffice for gear storage.
  • Cargo Bike Parking: Cargo bikes and electric bikes are becoming more and more popular and should be accomodated. This means providing larger or dedicated spaces for larger bikes.
  • E-bike Charging: E-bike sales at retail grew +145% in 2020 compared to the previous year. To combat “range anxiety,” provide outlets for charging next to bike parking.

5) Little Extras

This is what separates the good from the great bike and end-of-trip facilities. Assuming you aren’t able to put in a full-service bike shop that doubles as a cafe, here is a list of nice-to-haves that are really satisfying.

  • Drying closet: If riders arrive rain-soaked, it’s nice to have an option for them to dry their bike clothes. At Facebook’s campus in Seattle, we installed a marine-quality drying room for employees’ wet gear.
  • Accessory Charging: Many bike accessories (lights, locks, GPS) and components (shifters, derailers) are now powered by rechargeable batteries, with USB being the de-facto standard. For some users, it’s desirable to leave devices to charge in the bike room.

The drying closet at Facebook’s Seattle offices.

  • DIY Repair Station: A DIY station helps keep everyone rolling by enabling cyclists to handle small adjustments/repairs and fix flats on their own.
  • Lock Bar: A lock bar is a place for cyclists to store their locks when not in use.

Commuters can fix their bike or pump their tires here.

It’s those little extras that really make the bike room shine.

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.