Bike to work

Building features that promote biking to work

Properties should feature secure parking, changing rooms and showers
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
By Leah Wong

As the spring thaw begins and more cyclists take to the streets, there is still a common barrier for those thinking of biking to work: whether or not there is a secure place to store their bicycles during the day.

For commercial buildings, a main factor for accommodating cyclists is having end-of-trip bicycle facilities that make the transition from the road to the workplace more feasible.

According to Donna Chen, bike friendly business program manager for Vancouver cycling organization HUB, the number one thing that building management and employers should do to promote cycling is educate occupants about existing facilities within their buildings.

“When people don’t know how to get there (to bike facilities) or get lost looking for bike parking, putting in signage and routing to the area is helpful,” Chen says.

If bike storage does not yet exist, property managers and owners can consider adding designated bike parking areas into the existing parking garage. To ensure the area is secure, these spaces can be located near an attendant booth, include security cameras or feature keycard access.

Possible bike parking infrastructure can vary. It could consist of rows of bike racks, a bike cage or separate room. For short-term parking, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s #CycleON strategy suggests offering racks near building entrances for couriers or visitors.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Calgary that was published in the journal Transportation in 2007 showed that the availability of secure bike parking had significant influence on a commuter’s decision to cycle to work. In fact, parking was as much a factor in commuting by bicycle as trip length.

Having proper facilities in place is also valuable for building management.

“When there is nowhere secure to park bicycles, people will drag bikes through buildings, which can cause damage to the building itself,” Chen says. “Providing infrastructure that speaks to the parking needs of cyclists will assist the quality of the building.”

The study in Transportation also showed that having access to end-of-trip showers improved the attractiveness of cycling to work. These types of additional cycling facilities are something that Chen also recommends. She says that including change rooms, lockers and a space with tools for minor bike repairs, as well as weather-specific additions such as drying racks for wet gear or a drying area with hair dryers, will encourage cyclists to ride to work rain or shine.

Buildings working towards LEED certification may also benefit from including bike-friendly infrastructure. Under LEED v4, buildings applying for new construction certification can earn up to one point for including cycling infrastructure such as shower rooms and bike storage. Bike friendly buildings may also see an increased loyalty from tenants and occupants, as more socially conscious companies look to reduce their environmental impact.

Property owners and managers are not the only people thinking about cycling. Creating and improving cycling infrastructure is on the table at municipalities across the country. Calgary’s council will vote on a barrier-separated bicycle track in April, and Vancouver continues to expand its cycling network. And many cities, including Calgary and Toronto, feature zoning bylaws that outline the number of bicycle parking spots that must be included in a building.

For property owners and managers, there is room to grow when it comes to encouraging occupants to cycle. A 2012 Toronto Public Health report revealed that the city’s median commute distance is 7.5 kilometres, and up to 55 per cent of all trips within the city could be made by bicycle.

By including bicycle parking and related facilities, property owners and managers can encourage tenants and employees to go green and trade their cars in for bicycles.

Leah Wong is the online editor for Building Strategies & Sustainability magazine. 

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