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Developers Finding New Ways To Accommodate Cyclists As Cities Become More Bike-Friendly

Developers around the country are setting aside capital to upgrade their properties' bike accommodations, a clear sign of the growing value these services hold with tenants.

The bike room at Pembroke's 100 Cal in San Francisco

San Francisco's 100 California office is a recent example of this growing trend. The 288K SF building, owned by Pembroke Real Estate, does not offer any vehicular parking options for tenants. But after undergoing a facelift this year to modernize the building, it now has a dedicated bike room with space for more than 100 bikes, a bike repair station, lockers, showers and towel service.  

This phenomenon is playing out across the country as developers of office and apartment buildings place more emphasis on amenities for bike riders. This shift is occurring at the same time municipalities are working to develop more walkable and rideable cities to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.

Pembroke got the idea in 2011 when developing a building in Australia. Down in Sydney, landlords were doing much more than just providing outdoor bike racks: they were creating amenities called "end of trip facilities." These facilities offer a variety of services, including amenities like a vending machine that holds supplies to fix bikes, a fix-it station and a changing and shower room for riders to use after locking up their bikes, Pembroke Vice President Cory Saunders said.

"We began to focus more on the end of trip facility," Saunders said. "It is not just a place to park your bike. It’s a high-end location for you to go after you’ve securely parked your bike before you change."

Saunders said the company took that idea back with it to the U.S., and over the last five years he has seen it become a much larger trend in this country. 

Data shows the number of bike-share systems and their ridership have grown sharply since 2010.

Multifamily developers are also placing more attention on bike riders as they build apartment projects. 

In many Bay Area communities, bikers have joined together to get involved in the entitlement process for apartment buildings and insist developers set aside a certain number of bicycle spaces, Sares Regis Senior Vice President of Multifamily Development Ken Busch said. This has led some developers to set aside more than one bike space per apartment unit in a building.  

The way developers are adapting for cyclists extends beyond just creating spaces for people who own their own bikes. Over the last seven years, cities have increasingly adopted public bike-sharing systems that allow riders to rent bikes for short periods of time and to drop them off at stations throughout the city.

Busch said he views these bike-share stations as an amenity that can help attract residents. At one of Sares Regis' projects, 6tenEast in Sunnyvale, California, the landlord is even implementing its own private bike-sharing system that allows residents to rent bikes and drop them back off at the building later. 

Building With Bikers In Mind

A rendering of Sales Regis' 6tenEAST development in Sunnyvale, California

Over the last five years, Busch said he has seen a significant growth in the number of residents at Sares Regis' communities who bike to work. Because of this, he said Sares Regis considers "bike-ability," or the time it takes to ride to major employment centers, as a factor when determining where they build multifamily projects. 

"We look at five miles as a maximum riding distance," Busch said. "Typically five miles is bike-ability and half a mile is walkability. That is one of the many factors we look at." 

In addition to distance to employment centers, the developer also looks at accessibility of bike lanes, trails and bike-sharing stations. At 6tenEast, Sares Regis is providing improvements to an off-site bike trail as a community benefit that will also help its residents get to work. 

Public-Private Partnerships

A bike-share station across from a protected bike lane on M Street NE in D.C.

In Washington D.C., developers are also working with city officials to improve the ease of biking around the city. The District is working on creating more protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House.

Pembroke is currently renovating a building on that stretch, 1801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Saunders said the city engaged the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, which in turn solicited input from the corridor's landlords to help design bike lanes that are easy for building tenants to use. 

"Cooperation between landlords and government authorities when establishing these things can be a productive thing," Saunders said. "You’ve got to learn about how folks who own buildings can help you make a safer and more useful bike lane."

A rendering of Valor Development's 285-unit The Valvare apartment building
at 1603-1625 Benning Road NE

In addition to helping craft bike lanes around existing buildings, developers are also working with the city on future bike lanes around projects that are in the planning stages. 

"When we sit with DDOT, we're always curious where their head is so we can orient a building's exits to where the bikes would come in and out and to be as close to the bike lanes as possible," Valor Development principal Joe Bous said. 

Valor is planning a 285-unit apartment building on Benning Road NE, a stretch that does not have bike lanes, but where Bous said the city plans to install them in the future.

"It's still early in that part of the city for where bike lanes should go," Bous said. "Because the neighborhoods aren’t fully thought through yet, there are still ways for developers to influence it." 

The ability to help craft bike lanes allows developers to create a more efficient and convenient biking experience for their tenants from start to finish, Saunders said.

"We have thought about every detail from the path a biker takes to the moment they put their bike in a parked location to how we can make that integrate really closely with our fitness center to provide a seamless experience," Saunders said.