As more communities embrace bicycling as a means of commuting — more than 780,000 Americans biked to work in 2012, according to a 2014 report released by the U.S. Census Bureau — indoor bike storage is becoming a standard amenity in new and renovated office buildings. In fact, many cities, including New York and San Francisco, have ordinances that require commercial property owners to provide secure bicycle parking or allow tenants to bring their bicycles into the building.
In order to stay relevant, competitive — and depending on which city you’re in, to adhere to city codes — commercial property owners are faced with the challenge of carving out bike parking in floor plans that didn’t originally call for such space. For instance, in Portland, Oregon, the city with the highest percentage of workers pedaling to the office, new buildings must have at least 1.1 bike parking spaces per unit.
Why Should I Install Bike Storage?
While the benefits to building occupants are clear — secured space protects their bikes from theft and damage by the elements — the incentives for property owners aren’t as obvious. Retrofitting a common area for bike storage can be pricey, costing anywhere from $50 to $150 per bike, according to some estimates.
Yet adding something as simple as an indoor bike rack can help properties stay competitive in the commercial real-estate market and possibly command higher rental rates. It can also help slash maintenance costs: fewer tenants hauling bikes into elevators and stairwells means fewer scuffed-up walls and doors.
There’s an aesthetic rationale for indoor storage as well — bikes chained to fences, lampposts and stair railings are unsightly. Plus there’s the warm-and-fuzzy factor of knowing you’re helping the environment by aiding your building’s tenants in a habit that reduces overall carbon emissions.
Where Do I Find the Space?
Common areas with underused space, such as under stairwells or in parking garages, are good options for allocating two-wheel parking. One New York City landlord, Trinity Real Estate, spent $30,000 to open a bike room for tenants at one of its TriBeCa buildings. That cost included lighting, a paint job, a new front door and 10 bike racks, which were $2,500 each. Depending on the dimensions and constraints of the space it may accommodate a vertical or horizontal rack.
The landlord converted underused storage space — which was a few hundred square feet — that was adjacent to a loading dock and offered access to the main building’s lobby. The space can hold 35 to 40 bikes.
Not all retrofits are this expensive. For instance, other New York commercial office landlords have carved out bike rooms for between $1,000 and $4,500. The cost depends on a number of factors, including the number of bikes that can be stored.
Who Can Help?
There are bike rack suppliers and storage installation companies that specialize in setting up bike-storage solutions. These companies will usually do a free on-site assessment and share professional advice, layout recommendations and proposals at no obligation to the property manager. Shop around to find the best fit for your budget. Or, if space isn’t an issue, there’s the more cost-effective option of purchasing a commercial bike rack and installing it yourself.
How Do I Recoup the Costs?
The number cities that have bike-parking ordinances for commercial property mangers is small but growing. In these cities, property managers must carve out bike-parking space at no cost to the tenants. Many cities, though, do not have such ordinances, in which case property managers may be able to charge tenants a bike-parking fee, just as they charge tenants who park cars. In this case, once the initial cost of installing the storage space has been recouped, the bike-parking fees become passive income.
Yet for some property managers, the payoff isn’t in dollars; it’s in public relations. Many landlords are happy to carve out the space as the real estate market is increasingly favoring buildings with lower carbon footprints. In addition, adding bike storage space and showers (because commuters who work up a sweat cycling to work need to rinse off) can earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points from the U.S. Green Business Council.