Building for two wheels

June 30, 2016

Kimberly Kinchen, business network writer

Velo Bike Shop, the ground-floor occupant of the Via6 Apartments in Seattle. (Image: Pine Street Group, LLC)

Young people are getting driver’s licenses at historically low rates, adopting a mix of transit, bicycling, ridesharing to get around. Cities are a building better bike lanes faster than ever. The booming tech sector woos young talent, who want to live in cities. More people of all ages are adopting streamlined, low-consumption lifestyles, taking to smaller spaces with fewer belongings in return for higher quality of life.

Developers have met this confluence of trends with their own, creating residential buildings that make living by bike that much easier.

Take the Pine Street Group’Via6 project, a 654-unit mixed-use high-rise that skirts Seattle’s South Lake Union tech hub. Not only does Via6 offer residents plenty of bike storage and a bike wash, the developers wooed local favorite Velo Bike Shop to a ground-floor retail space, so repairs and upgrades are steps away. The developer also anticipated that as downtown bike commute rates rose, employers wouldn’t or couldn’t meet the growing employee demand for on-site bike facilities. Pine Street Group’s solution? The ViaBike Club, where a monthly fee allows those who work near Via6 24-hour access to secure bike storage, showers, and lockers, plus same-day repair service from Velo.

A rendering of a Bici Flats unit with bike storage (Image: Bici Flats)

Places like Seattle that have earned reputations for welcoming people who bike aren’t the only places developers are stepping up. Bici Flats in Des Moines, Iowa will feature built-in bike storage in each apartment. Developers Ragan-Smith are working with Spring Hill, TN to plan new housing that will take advantage of the site’s proximity to a local trail and feature bike amenities. Older buildings are getting retrofits to attract renters and buyers. (It’s important to acknowledge that while these developments are welcome for many people who bike and young, affluent professionals, in many cities new affordable housing hasn’t kept up with market rate housing. For long-time residents, this represents a powerful wave of gentrification and is often associated with the expansion of better bike lanes in their neighborhoods. Some bike advocates have taken note and have begun efforts to engage these communities.)

While many cities may not yet require on-site bike parking or perks, designing and building for people who want to incorporate bicycling into their lifestyles may soon become a simple matter of meeting market demand. Matt Griffin, principal and managing partner of the Pine Street Group, says that it was largely intuition and his experience being part of Seattle’s bicycling community that inspired the bike-friendly features of Via6. But he sees practical considerations driving the trend well into the future. “We know we can’t move as many people through our cities in the traditional manner of the last twenty or thirty years,” Griffin says. “The bike fits into what’s going on.”

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