Guest post by Jessica Hersh-Ballering
Last week, ULI Washington held a well-attended program, “The Next Generation of Bicycle-Friendly Building Design,” to explore how developers can incorporate bike-friendly amenities into their projects. Why the emphasis on biking? Commuting and running errands by bicycle is an excellent way for people to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives, and bike amenities are increasingly desired by building tenants.
Sophie Lambert, director of neighborhood development at the U.S. Green Building Council, moderated the July 11th panel. Panelists included Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association; Jennifer Toole, president of Toole Design Group; and Tony Greenberg, senior vice president of development at the JBG Companies.
Farthing emphasized that planning for bicyclists and users of other alternative transportation modes can’t be just a public sector issue. When it comes to building the facilities needed to support mass bike commuting – protected bike lanes, long-term and secure bike parking for employees at or near their workplaces, availability of showers at the workplace, etc. – individuals and organizations in the private sector need to throw their weight behind projects that incorporate these infrastructure components.
Toole reminded the audience that many young people and millennials do not view the personal car as a symbol of freedom the way the baby boom generation did; smartphones represent freedom for them instead, she said. Strong demand exists for urban development that is bicyclist and pedestrian friendly, and developers are not the only ones who benefit when they meet that demand: entire cities benefit by being able to attract young workers with disposable income.
Toole and Greenberg described innovative business and housing developments that cater to bicyclists, such as Toole’s offices and Velo Apartments. Some features of these projects are simple, such as covered or indoor bike parking, vending machines that sell tire patch kits, and up-to-date transit information in building lobbies. Other features require more planning, such as locating the development within a five-minute walk of a well-served transit stop.
The panelists agreed that while infrastructure and amenities are vital to increasing the number of bicycling commuters, a bike-friendly culture is also essential. Developers cannot think only of fearless, spandex-wearing bicyclists. Those developers who also consider individuals who want to cycle but feel that their needs are not currently being met will be ahead of the curve, Greenberg said, and will have a unique advantage in the current market.