Between 2000 and 2014, bicycle commuting increased by 62% (per U.S. census figures). All over the country, there is a growing demand for bike-friendly and walkable places to live and work. This new trend is driving real estate developers to build more “trail-oriented” communities. While transit and access have always been key factors in real estate development, what is changing now is a growing number of workers who are looking for offices that are easily accessed by foot and by bike, in addition to by car and public transit.
Developers are now aligning new buildings and communities with government investments in recreational trails and the general shift toward a more car-free lifestyle in many areas of the country. New amenities suited for “active transportation” like bicycle storage, bike cleaning stations, bike-sharing systems, shower or locker facilities are now commonly requested in new buildings, if they are not already provided.
Developers are not the only ones who are challenged with accommodating a diverse commuting system. Cities and parks and recreation services now have to plan for travelers to have year-round options. That means clearing recreational paths after winter snow storms and other storms that produce ground debris and inhibit use of recreational trails. These trails are no longer solely used for recreation. Today, recreational trails are commuter trails for many. Parks services must now plan and budget for snow and ice and debris clearing.
From the real estate consultant perspective, we are seeing a growing number of our clients, city and suburbs alike, focusing on trail oriented locations. Many of our clients are incorporating amenities for bikers and “active commuters” into their spaces. Some clients are offering incentives to employees who commute without a car and incorporating an “active lifestyle” into their corporate cultures. As a result, trail-oriented real estate development is on the rise.