August 2nd, 2017

HUB Cycling

The Smithe + HUB Cycling

Report by the HUB Cycling Team

Report: Not Just Bike Racks – Informing Design for End of Trip Cycling Amenities in Vancouver Real Estate

Excerpt from Introduction:

The idea for this project grew out of HUB Cycling’s experience in recent years of being asked by developers to provide advice and insight into how their new building projects could better meet the needs of and appeal to people who ride bikes. At the same time HUB Cycling has been asked by municipal staff how cities can better engage with developers and managers to create more and better cycling amenities in buildings.

Cycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation in Metro Vancouver, and 41 percent of people in the region want to cycle more.1 Census data shows that commuter cyclists are over-represented in high-skill and high-income professions. Some leading Vancouver commercial property developers are already recognizing the benefits of designing and installing exemplary end-of-trip facilities and are seeing the benefits in lower than average vacancy rates but there are opportunities for the broader
development industry to see the value and demand more bike-friendly features from their design teams. To date though, the general approach to designing and outfitting end-of-trip cycling facilities does not reflect increasing demand for quality and range of cycling facilities in Vancouver’s changing housing and workplace real estate markets.

Effective and attractive facilities factor into decisions that residents and workers make about cycling, and this report seeks to better understand how to overcome barriers to providing more and better bicycle parking and end-of-trip amenities. Our findings indicate that developers, depending on the nature and location of their buildings, should demand that their design teams are prepared, informed and well-engaged at key early development stages to integrate exemplary end of trip facilities that are ready to meet growing demand into the future. Our findings also point to the role of municipal staff and partner organizations in providing the most current and useful information about end-of-trip cycling amenities at key early stages of new developments and redevelopments.

The Smithe – a feature development in the Projects in Progress section:

Through our research and HUB Cycling’s previous consultations with developers we learned about a handful of other in-progress projects where developers have taken a creative approach to resolving challenges posed by site constraints and bike parking requirements. The Smithe is one such example.

The Smithe is a mixed-use 27-storey development by Boffo Developments Ltd., with 94 two and three-bedroom condominiums. The project is currently in the pre-construction phase.

The small size of the downtown site has posed various design challenges, including where and how to fit in the required number of long-term indoor bike parking spaces and lockers. The city’s default preference is to have these on the first level of underground parking (P1), so that cyclists have quick and easy access to their bikes. However, given the size of the site and the other mechanical, access and exit issues that developers must also provide for on P1, locating all the bike parking there required Boffo to commit to an extra level of underground parking and excavation. Instead, Boffo proposed to locate the bike parking on the lowest parking floor (P6) and to provide a dedicated bike elevator for access as well as other cycling amenities, such as a bike repair room. When the city declined this initial proposal, preferring the typical P1 location for the bike parking, Boffo Developments approached HUB Cycling for guidance on how to best accommodate bike parking on P6.

Knowing that theirs was an unconventional proposal, Boffo vice-president Jim Ellis and architect Robert Toth did their best to think through all the reasons why putting the bike parking on P6 wouldn’t work and then address them thoroughly. Ellis notes that, “We always start with the premise, ‘if this was for me, if I had the bicycle, if I had to commute everyday, what would I want? What would raise my level of confidence and enjoyment?’”. Boffo returned to the city with a refined proposal that included a separate cyclist elevator lobby and a dedicated bike elevator designed to allow two cyclists to enter and exit without repositioning their bikes. The proposed elevator lobby also has monitors that show the bike parking area on P6, allowing cyclists to see if anyone else is in that area before heading down. Users will also have the added sense of security knowing that only registered cyclists will have fob access to the bike lobby, elevator and other bike facilities . For the office users, the end-of-trip facilities, consisting of change rooms and showers, are located on Level 2. There is hope that providing inviting facilities will in turn increase ridership.

Ellis and Toth suggest that any inconvenience created by storing bikes on the lowest underground level rather than the first is outweighed by the benefits of having cyclists separated from car traffic, the avoidance of steep parkade ramps necessitated by the small site, and by the bike-friendly design features they were able to create in the greater space afforded them on P6. In addition to exceeding the minimum number of required bike parking spaces and lockers and providing wider navigating aisles for easier access, these features will include a bike repair room. Boffo Developments also chose to provide only horizontal racks, instead of the usual mix of horizontal and vertical racks that the city’s bike parking requirements allow for. Many people find vertical racks harder to use because they require riders to lift the front of their bikes off the ground instead of allowing them to simply roll into a space. Doors to the bike area will operated by button for ease of access. “We have tried to elevate the cycling facilities to the same level of convenience and comfort as other building amenities,” Toth said.

Boffo Developments has targeted The Smithe at the mature segment of condo buyers (“empty nesters”) who are downsizing from houses to enjoy the benefits of downtown living – and is hoping those potential customers will be enticed by the amenities they offer to take up cycling again. They want to make the P6 bike facility not only convenient and safe to access, but also a place where residents can build community as they repair their bikes and perhaps also learn how to maintain them themselves through on-site seminars. “I think what we have is well
ahead of the city’s minimum requirements,” said Ellis.


Click here to read the full report by HUB Cycling.

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