Washington DC biking amenities are in vogue in the suburbs, but where are the commuters?

Open a leasing brochure for an office building and chances are you’ll see amenities geared toward bike commuters.

February 25, 2019
  • Open a leasing brochure for an office building and chances are you’ll see amenities geared toward bike commuters, including secured storage rooms, lockers, repair stations and showers. But how many employees across Metro DC are commuting by bike and utilizing these amenities? 
  • According to the latest results from the American Community Survey (ACS), bike commuting downtown stands in stark contrast to the suburbs. In the District, several micromarkets have upward of 20% of residents commuting by bike, including Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights and the U Street Corridor. Two additional neighborhoods, Bloomingdale and Eastern Market, have rates that surpass 20%. 
  • By comparison, even the densest suburbs, such as the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, have less than 5% of residents commuting by bike, despite the influx of biking amenities in office buildings, plus expanded access to options like Capital BikeShare, more bike lanes, and connectivity to miles of paved trail networks. In fact, similar trends take shape when comparing Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland.
  • Northern Virginia has the largest trail network in Metro DC, with nearly 20% of the office inventory within ¼ mile of a paved bike trail, led by Reston, Rosslyn-Ballston, Crystal City and Old Town. To boost ridership, local jurisdictions are not just focused on adding more bike lanes to the streets to complement the trail network, but they also require office landlords to provide a specific number of bike spaces for new buildings. In Fairfax County, landlords must offer one bike space per 7,500 s.f. in urban and transit-oriented areas, with the City of Alexandria mandating the same ratio. In contrast, Arlington County’s ratio is 1 per 6,000 s.f. Meanwhile, landlords are focused on amenities catered to biking. Among recently delivered buildings, 2311 Wilson in Courthouse includes a 1,000-s.f. bike storage room adjacent to a fitness center with showers. Outside the Beltway, renovated buildings, including in Tysons, are adding similar features. However, as the ACS indicates, a low percentage of residents commute by bike, a finding reinforced by data from Capital BikeShare. Since 2015, the number of Capital BikeShare stations has grown by 43% in Northern Virginia, but rush-hour ridership has grown by only 13%, and even fell slightly over the last year. 
  • In Suburban Maryland, Montgomery County has taken a lead in expanding its trail network, with a master plan dedicated to adding more bike lanes to complement the Capital Crescent Trail connecting downtown Bethesda to the District. Two buildings under construction, 4747 Bethesda and 7272 Wisconsin, will deliver within ¼ mile of the Capital Crescent Trail, and amenities will include bike storage, a repair station and direct access to a fitness center with showers. Like Northern Virginia, however, less than 5% of residents commute via bike across most of the market, a trend again reinforced by ridership data from Capital BikeShare. The number of stations has grown by 69% since 2015, but rush-hour ridership has only increased by 16%. 
  • Looking ahead, commute patterns in the suburbs are continuing to evolve as more pockets become transit-oriented and feature non-vehicular amenities. Suburban employees, particularly along the Silver Line in Northern Virginia and Red Line and future Purple Line in Maryland, will have greater commute options than ever before. 

Source: JLL Research

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