Condos Scramble to Create Bicycle Storage Space

Condos Scramble to Create Bicycle Storage Space

 As cities become more bike-friendly, and public consciousness about health and  green living more predictable, condominium boards are debating questions about  bicycle storage and safety around their properties.  

 This may not seem a complex subject, but it can become just as big a bone of  contention as anything else for managers.  

 Consider, for instance, recent comments to a bicyclist’s blog query about storage; responses range from the practical to the whimsical:  

 • “Hang the front tire over the patio rail.”  

 • “One hundred percent ‘no’ to bike storage areas. You can just kiss your bike goodbye if you store it  there.”  

 • “They’re at the foot of my bed … My bikes are the last thing I see when I go to bed and the first thing I see  when I wake up.”  

 • “A big selling point for our apartment was the tile floors and cinder block  walls. The walls are kinda ugly, but no bike is going to hurt them, and the  dirt wipes off easy.”  

 • “Fill the tires with helium and let them float to the roof.”  

 A lot of opinions there, on a hot topic. Basically, bicycling is big in New  England—especially during the prolonged warm seasons of late—and savvy condo developers are including riding paths and storage convenience  among their benefits.  

 Boston, as one of the top-rated bike-friendly cities in the nation, has a focus  on bicycle services at condominiums.  

 “Property will sell faster,” says Rob Cohen, CRS, ASR, ABR, realtor and president of Boston Distinctive  Properties.”It’s beneficial to consider (storage) as part of the construction with new condos.”  

 Interest in bicycling facilities over the past decade, he says, has become huge  around Boston, where there are thousands of students and two-wheeled commuters.  “They’ve put in the bicycle rental areas, similar to a Zipcar. Along Boylston Street,  and other parts of the city, you can pick out a bike, sign it out, return it  later. Also, bike lanes have been installed along Commonwealth Avenue and other  parts of Boston, so it’s absolutely an important part of living in the city—an extremely important part.” The rental service is expanding rapidly.  

 Those who own bicycles need to house them securely. Even high-end condo users  have storage concerns.  

 Selling Point

 “In the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, new developments on the waterfront,  65 to 75 percent of people looking for a condo normally ask if there is  somewhere to store a bicycle,” Cohen says.  

 That’s an impressive figure. While people who are really interested in a property  will generally find another way to store their bikes when storage is not  adequately provided, Cohen says, it’s a significant consideration for them. Some will reject a location on that  basis. “It’s important to have somewhere to store items like baby carriages (also important  in Boston) or a bicycle.”  

 One example of bike-friendly Boston is at Wilkes Passage, a seven-story South  End condo with 159 loft-style units. Not only is there 24-hour security, there  is an underground parking area with bike storage.  

 As one moves toward more urban high-rises, “underground” becomes a frequent option to locked rooms or in-unit storage.  

 Basically, talking bicyclists and condos, means talking about regulations for  security, aesthetics and safety, especially at older buildings transformed into  condominium dwellings. All boards have to consider inside storage setups,  building traffic, and liability.  

 Although condo marketing strategies these days tout bicycle paths to entice  buyers, the rules and regulations don’t always cater to them. Older, more established communities may need to modify  rules (and storage areas). The rules may allow bike storage in hallways or  movement via elevator, both of which give rise to complaints—as any board can attest. In contrast, prohibiting elevator use for bikes is  tough on someone living up 16 flights of stairs.  

 Security is Key

 Loss or damage is the bike operator’s own risk, but storage facilities should be responsive.  

 “Most buildings allow owners to store bikes in their units if they cannot provide  a secure area to keep them locked,” says Nicholas Boit, president of Barrington Management Co. in Arlington,  Massachusetts. “There is no liability to the association if a bike is stolen. It is at the sole  risk of the owner to store in a common area, or even in a designated storage  area.”  

 In other words, say several sources, bikes must be insured under homeowner  policies, and residents must be so informed.  

 “Hopefully, an association would put in place rules and regulations, and give  notice to unit owners that they have to take responsibility for maintaining  their own security,” says attorney Diane Rubin, a partner at Prince Lobel Tye LLP in Boston. “They need to enact some rules, try to make sure there’s clarity that (damage or theft) is a unit owner’s responsibility, so they don’t get pegged with something like that.”  

 Even when there are specific storage areas, some owners refuse to use them, not  wanting to leave a bike worth several thousand dollars where it can be stolen  or damaged.  

 “In a couple of buildings, there has been some traditional area that’s been used for bike storage, and there are now too many bikes for the amount of  room space. It may have been set up for 20 or 25 bikes, but now there are 40  people wanting to use it,” says Rubin.  

 Over the decade, she says, associations have put more resources into the space  problem “to try to find a system, stacking or tiered storage for instance, that will  accommodate growth.”  

 Residents have complained about bike racks and improperly stored bicycles. “They can get messy if they’re not maintained well,” Rubin says. There is also disagreement about transporting bikes from the street  to a resident’s unit by using the elevator. “They take up a lot of space, bump into things,” she says. Nothing has risen to the level of a lawsuit, but there is “grumbling.”  

 It’s in the Law

 In Cambridge, adjacent to Boston, bicycling is not just encouraged, it’s protected. Viewing bike traffic as an economical, healthful and green mode of  transport, the city has done its best to ensure bicyclists are fairly provided  for. In all new development and redevelopment projects, bike parking must be  provided in accordance with zoning requirements. Locations and layouts must be  included in building site plans, and approved by the regulatory parties.  Additionally, multifamily residences must provide at least one bicycle parking  space or locker for every two residences. The city further stipulates both size  and shape of bike racks, and where they should be located.  

 In other words, it’s the law.

 That’s not the case everywhere. But there is progress. In May, the League of American  Bicyclists named Massachusetts the third most bike-friendly state in the  country.  

 “Each complex is different, so they all handle bike storage in a different way,” says Nick Ruccolo, CPM, PCAM, CMCA, a vice president at Crowninshield  Management, which oversees more than 5,000 units.  

 He breaks management issues up by development size:

 Townhouses—Easiest to deal with, are typically two-unit residences with fairly simple  storage situations. “They all just place the bike in the back areas, typically a deck area, or bring  it inside. Townhouses with garages have very few issues,” he says.  

 Garden-style—“These units pose a little bit of a problem, because there’s minimal storage inside (many are converted apartment buildings), and now you  need a bike rack outside, and some people won’t leave a very expensive bike on a bike rack.” He cites one person with an $8,000 bicycle. “Then it becomes a matter of storage inside,” says Ruccolo. “Many (facilities) have made such arrangements, but some don’t, and you’ll see them under stairwells, and other places that are inappropriate.” That’s when storage starts to become an aesthetic or safety issue among neighbors.  

 Mid- and high-rise condominiums—“These typically come with separate storage areas,” Ruccolo says. “You try to make common area storage for them, or they use their own units.” Frequently, riders dislike locked storage areas as inconvenient—but it’s still a good option, he says. “One condo building in Cambridge provides a locked bicycle room with keypad  entry, and none of the bikes (inside) is even locked. Residents feel safe  enough—and these are very expensive bikes.”  

 But theft motivates some to take their bikes inside. There is an interesting  conversation about the topic at roadbikereview.com, where members comment about  methods of storing bikes in confined interiors. Complete with pictures (which  some might find preposterous and others will love), the blog looks at wall  racks, folding bikes, etc., for resolving storage problems. In one, an  attractive, multi-paned wall of windows has been framed—not with curtains but with dual bike racks.  

 When it comes to common areas, management has to define what’s acceptable—and not—when it comes to bicycle storage. It’s a challenge that seems to be growing with each passing year, as the interest  in green travel blossoms.    

 Ann Frantz is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to New England  Condominium.

 

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