For the last decade or so, newly constructed residential buildings have featured all kinds of novel amenities, from simple but unexpected to the opulent and extravagant—and it shows no signs of slowing down.
“There’s an amenities arms race between new construction and older buildings,” says Richard Cohen, president of Velodome, a tri-state area company that designs and creates bicycle storage rooms and stations. “It used to be just a laundry room, then it was the fitness rooms, and now most buildings have bicycle rooms. Many older buildings have empty space that’s used as bicycle rooms, but they waste so much space and it looks like a jungle.”
In 2009, New York City passed a zoning amendment that required newly constructed buildings of 10 units or more, along with substantially enlarged buildings and those converted for residential use, to provide one bicycle space for every two apartments. As a result, bicycle storage has become more and more common, leaving older buildings rushing to catch up.
“It’s a constant flow of interest,” says Ben Cramer, a salesman with Dero, a bike-rack company with offices all across the country. “In New York, the priorities are security, and maximizing bicycle parking for the space. Very typically I will see a small- to medium-sized room on the ground floor or basement, with piles of bicycles in utter disarray. Management will be looking to find a systematic way of parking those bicycles in a much more secure and user-friendly way.”
Of course, before building or overhauling a bike room, Cohen recommends gauging interest in such a project among residents. “What often happens is a building will have a survey or sign-up sheet to determine how many people are interested in storing their bikes,” he says. “Notice is sent out that it’s at the front desk. People will sign up, and then you’ll have an idea of who's interested and willing to pay the fee. From there, you’ll know how much space you’re going to need.”
Cramer notes that just because X-number of people sign up now doesn’t mean you won’t eventually need more space for bicycles. “Typically a biking family will have 2 to 4 bicycles, so I think about 2 bicycles per apartment is a good measure, especially if you’re near a park or bikeways. Very consistently a building will expect to park a certain number of bicycles, only to see demand for spaces go up once it becomes available. If you have 20 apartments, you’d do well to have spaces for 30 bicycles.”
Best Use of Space
“Not all bicycle rooms are perfect rectangles,” says Cohen. “Sometimes there are columns in the way, or storage lockers. What often helps is if someone on the board takes some general dimensions, then someone from the storage company can come down, look at the space, take measurements, and do a free layout and CAD drawing. That enables us to get as many bicycles as possible in while still being functional.”
“We start with how much space is available, and then determine what kind of bike racks to use. There are a variety of styles, and it’s a good idea to mix them up, since not everyone can use every kind of storage device. The most common ones in storage rooms are vertical. They leave more aisle space than other racks,” notes Cohen.
When it comes to optimizing space, most experts favor using bike hooks so that bicycles can be hung in a vertical position, rather than being parked side-by-side. Hanging bikes cuts the amount of space needed to store a single bicycle in half. Cramer adds, “The styles that make sense in New York City, where space is such a premium, are vertical parking or double-decker solutions.”
A double-decker solution is just as it sounds: one bicycle at floor level, and another suspended above it, usually on a thin platform that slides down and allows the user to just roll their bicycle onto it before sliding it back up. By mixing and matching, a building can optimize their space and fit a surprisingly large number of bicycles in a relatively small room.
“You can park as many bicycles in a room as you can fit on top of a pile, but you have to balance that against ease of use,” jokes Cramer, but he also notes, “If you need to park 30 bicycles, and you’ve got a room 16 feet by 10 feet, you’d be able to fit them in there just fine.”
Cramer adds that storage doesn’t just need to be indoors. “I find that it’s easier for most New York buildings to provide indoor parking, just because outdoor space tends to be even more limited. That said, if you have a narrow alleyway or courtyard, that’s a good place to park bicycles as well.”
Cost and Usage
The cost of storing an individual bicycle isn’t too extravagant—though for larger buildings it can get a little pricey.
“Customers can expect to pay from $50 to $250 per bicycle in terms of parking equipment,” says Cramer. “That’s just for the merchandise. From there, the building can either install it themselves or contract that out.”
Of course that doesn’t mean the board has to shell that money out with no way to make it back. As Cramer notes, charging a small fee for storage has a few benefits, the least of which is helping to pay for the cost of the storage room itself.
“Charging some fee—even a small one—is a good idea,” he says. “Even just charging a few dollars a month, buildings can pretty quickly make back what they’ve invested in the space. It’s also a way of avoiding derelict bicycles. New York City has a problem with this, and a lot of co-ops and condos have the same issue, where they can’t tell the difference between some beautiful vintage cruiser and a rusted over hunk of junk. So even charging a nominal fee can be really useful in keeping control over how the bike room is used.”
Cohen adds, “As far as what buildings charge, the average tends to be between $12 and $15 per bike per month. We always recommend the building charge something, even if it’s just a little bit—otherwise people may have moved out, or passed on or whatever, and their bicycles could be down there for years.”
So while finding the space might be hard, creating a bicycle storage area for your building can not only draw in residents but create a modest but consistent revenue stream to help pay for things around your building.
John Zurz is a staff writer and reporter for The Cooperator.