Urban investment property management teams may have noticed branded bicycles in parking stations on major thoroughfares or dockless bicycles and scooters located on sidewalks with a notice that says something like “download this app, pay, and start riding.”
According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), 84 million trips were taken on shared bikes and scooters nationwide in 2018. Thirty-five million bike share trips were taken in 2017 and the number of bike share bikes more than doubled from 42,500 bikes at the end of 2016 to about 100,000 bikes by the end of 2017. With bike share numbers continuing to grow exponentially throughout the U.S., this is a trend that urban rental property managers can’t ignore.
Below is information property managers and landlords need to know about bike shares, the challenges they may pose for rental properties, and how to use them to your advantage.
Bike share programs provide a low-cost alternative for urban residents to get around without a car. People who don’t own a bicycle can use bike share programs for the convenience of accessing on-demand bikes to run errands, get to work, or simply to spend time outdoors.
Bike share rides can be purchased via a mobile app or kiosk, and generally paid for using pay-in-advance flat-charge memberships or short-term passes or pay-when-done usage fees for time spent riding them. Long-term memberships are available at monthly and annual rates; short-term passes are available at daily and weekly rates. Memberships and short-term passes are good options for folks looking for unlimited rides within a specific time period require payment before riding. Usage fees for time spent riding are good for one-time rides and are generally calculated in increments.
These options work for point-to-point travel (unlike renting a bike from a shop), which allows people to use bike share bikes as a standard and dependable method of transportation for commuting to work and personal trips personal in addition to recreation. However, bikes are limited to use within specific geographic boundaries.
Station bikes are available at strategically located high-tech bike racks stocked with multiple bikes that are locked when not in use. The station bike system is the most common bike share system in the U.S. and is often implemented by cities, towns, and communities. Station bikes are distinguishable from regular bikes because they’re usually bulkier with sturdy, high-set frames, painted in bright colors, and marked with a large branded logo.
Accessing a station bike requires riders to insert a credit card or enter a code through an app in which they have already created a personal login. Once the payment requirement has been satisfied, the bike rack unlocks the bike and riders are ready to go. When they’re done riding, the bike must be returned to a station within the bike share network with an available docking space. Many cities have branded station bike share programs conveniently located throughout the city limits.
Companies such as Jump, Lime, and Bird provide dockless bikes, electric bikes, scooters, and electric scooters for riders on demand that can be left anywhere. Generally considered to be more user-friendly than station bike shares, these are the types of bikes and scooters you might find randomly left on sidewalks. Riders who come across them can use the app to pay for the ride, unlock it, use it, and then leave it in an area that’s convenient for them, where yet another rider can come across it and do the same.
Dockless bike programs can be found in cities across the country, and riders can use the same app to access a bike or scooter in any city that hosts them. Dockless bike programs are only available for single-ride options, rather than flat-fee memberships.
Dockless scooters and bicycles are met with controversy in some places. The tech companies that provide them are supported by significant investor funding, allowing them to scatter their products throughout cities, making them available straight to consumers. According to USA Today, thousands of micro-mobility devices are putting pedestrians at risk on increasingly crowded urban sidewalks, and the companies providing them have ignored getting city approvals to dispense them.
Investment property management teams and landlords are not liable for tenants riding these bikes and scooters, but it is recommended that tenants be encouraged to wear helmets when riding them.
Station bikes cannot be taken onto your property because the system is designed to require riders to return them to a dock station to avoid incurring additional fees. However, dockless bike and scooter systems are designed for riders to leave them anywhere, so they may end up on your property. To avoid this, include language forbidding bike shares to be brought onto the property in your lease agreements and review this stipulation with all tenants. Consult with your attorney to determine what language to use and decide what the penalty will be for noncompliance.
If your rental property is very close to a bike station, you may experience a bit more foot traffic by the entry than usual. If this becomes a safety concern for your residents, consider installing security cameras at the entry. Increased activity around the property can also add a level of vulnerability for packages delivered and left outside the building’s doorway. Providing a secure package delivery system to your tenants may significantly increase tenant retention and provide peace of mind for both renters and property managers.
Close proximity to bike share stations is becoming increasingly attractive to prospective renters who like the eco-friendly, active lifestyle options they provide. Additionally, if your rental property is lacking a fitness center, a nearby bike share provides a great alternative physical and transportation option you can promote in your vacancy listings and promotional materials.
According to Wired, “[Lime] has seen demand from landlords. ‘A number of commercial and residential real estate owners have become interested in bike sharing as a way to make their properties more valuable,’ says Brad Greiwe, a managing partner at Fifth Wall Ventures, which focuses on real estate.
“Greiwe says property owners are eager to adopt dockless bike sharing because it can expand accessibility to buildings, especially ones that are not within walking distance to public transit. Further, tenants increasingly expect bike sharing as an amenity, he says, and landlords want to partner to provide hubs and storage areas for bikes.”
You can also offer bike share memberships as a way to attract new prospective tenants and fill vacant units, increase lease renewals or as a tenant appreciation rewards. Attracting and retaining quality renters may be worth the minimal cost.
As part of an elite investment property management team, it’s important to understand the lifestyle needs that are important to your ideal tenant demographic. High on the current trending list of urban renters are access to transportation, physical activity, and eco-friendly amenities. Bike shares provide an innovative option to adapt to and accommodate these trends and remain competitive in your market.