Riding ’Hoods

Apartment buildings find ways to appeal to those who ride on two wheels

June 29, 2012

Judy Payne, with her dog, Waldo, chose an apartment building with amenities for cyclists and easy access to bike trails.

Finding a bike-friendly apartment building was important to Judy Payne, an e-business adviser for USAID, when she sought out a new home last year. She set her sights on Arlington County, which, according to the League of American Bicyclists, is a great area for getting around on two wheels.

Payne, 65, chose Crescent (2121 N. Westmoreland St., Arlington, 866-823-6119, Crescentva.com), an apartment building that straddles the border of Arlington and Falls Church. As a recreational cyclist, she loves that the building is located next to the W&OD Trail, which runs 45 miles from Shirlington to Purcellville in Virginia. “I can get to the bike trail easier than I can get to the road,” Payne says. “It’s just so durn convenient!”

In a crowded marketplace, apartment buildings in the D.C. area can stand out by offering bike amenities that complement the region’s improved bike lanes and trails and rapidly increasing ridership. The District — recently named the fourth-most-bike-friendly U.S. city by Bicycling Magazine, up nine spots in just one year — and Arlington County are both leading the way. Nearby areas including Fairfax County are learning from those examples and developing plans to become more bike friendly, too.

Crescent has a room in the garage with storage for up to 200 bikes. It offers complimentary loaners to residents, which some tenants use for their daily commutes. In addition, Tri360, a swim/bike/run shop, is set to open in the building this summer, so residents will be able to stock up on gear as well as bring their bikes for a tune-up.

Sang Park, a vice president at Vornado/Charles E. Smith realty company, which oversees apartment buildings including RiverHouse in Pentagon City (1400 S. Joyce St., Arlington, 888-217-8530, riverhouseapts.com) and 220 Twentieth Street in Crystal City (220 S. 20th St., Arlington, 888-769-6855, 220living.com), works hard to give residents what they want. And what they want are bicycle perks.

Based on tenant feedback, Park is looking into creating an in-house bike repair room in RiverHouse. He also hopes to put wall-mounted bike clips in individual units in both of his properties. Even though his buildings already offer secure bike rooms, Park knows that many people prefer to store bikes in their entryway or living room and wants to offer a dedicated space to do so.

Crystal City, Va., which is only a few miles from the District and offers easy access to the Mt. Vernon Trail, was the first part of Arlington to offer Capital Bikeshare. The Bikeshare program lets riders pay a small fee to check out a bicycle from one station, then return it to any one of more than 150 stations.

The area has another bike-sharing option: the Revolution Cycles City Hub. Anyone who lives or works in Crystal City can pay a one-time fee to have access to bikes and helmets from Revolution Cycles for three hours each day. Because the City Hub is in the 220 Twentieth Street apartment building, those residents have free access to the program.

In the District, the NoMa neighborhood stands out for cyclists. Robin-Eve Jasper, president of the NoMa Business Improvement District, sums it up: “We love bikes.”

The neighborhood offers six Capital Bikeshare locations as well as Bikestation — an indoor facility at Union Station with storage for up to 100 bikes, along with repairs, rentals, retail sales, changing rooms and lockers. In addition to all of this, NoMa will soon be adding four new outdoor racks with air pumps.

First and M (1160 First St. NE, Washington, D.C., 877-242-9963, Archstoneapartments.com), a newer apartment building in NoMa, offers what it has dubbed the Wheelhouse, a bike-repair room stocked with tools.

For those who would rather leave the tune-ups to the pros, the NoMa BID partners with the shop BicycleSPACE to offer “BikeSPA” days, during which residents can drop off their bikes in the morning and get them after work tuned up and ready to ride.

The farther you get outside the District, the tougher it can be to find bike-friendly neighborhoods.

“Living in the suburbs is harder,” says Jessica Abbazio, 28, a University of Maryland graduate student and triathlete who moved to Annandale in 2009 after renting in Foggy Bottom for two years. “You often have to drive your car somewhere to bike.”

Bruce Wright, chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, which promotes bicycling for transportation and for fun, agrees: There are great places to ride, but they’re not well-connected. The county is in the process of developing a master plan for bicycling. While it will likely take years for Fairfax residents to see major changes, incremental improvements — such as new bike lanes — are already happening. The first big makeover will occur in Tysons Corner, where Wright says the county plans to transform “big roads with big parking lots” into smaller pedestrian- and bike-friendly blocks with bike lanes and less congested streets. The bike-friendly trend is coming to Maryland, too.

“Bethesda and Silver Spring are on the fast path to becoming bike friendly,” says Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicycling Association, the region’s main advocacy group for better and safer cycling. Capital Bikeshare stations are coming to lower Montgomery County in the next year.

The question remains: Are bike amenities merely perks for renters, or do they signal a shift in the way people get around?

“We’re finding that car parking is underused,” says Jasper about NoMa apartment buildings, “but the bike parking is always full.”

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