In 21st century America, a 19th century invention -- the bicycle -- is figuring more and more in the calculations of apartment hunters and others looking for suitable digs. Bike commuting is on the rise in many cities, studies show, and as the number has grown, so has the need for bike-friendly housing.
Many apartment complexes are offering secure storage spaces for bikes. Some developers are even putting bike repair shops in apartment buildings. "I decided to live without a car, to take the leap," said 31-year-old Rose Barcklow (pictured above), who lives in a Denver apartment that gives her easy access to the bike lanes that she takes on her 7-mile commute to work.
Her apartment complex, "Solera," is very bike-friendly. Barcklow doesn't have to lug her two bikes up to her apartment because there's a secure storage area for two-wheelers, and she makes use of the "velo room" -- a tool-equipped workshop where she can pump up her tires, clean her chain and fix a flat.
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What is bike-friendly housing?
If you're a cyclist who owns a house, you can do pretty much whatever it takes: Put your bike in the cellar or in a locked garage to keep it secure. Build shelves or a cabinet to store helmets, cycling shoes, spare tubes, tires, tools and other gear. If you don't own your own house, not to worry. An increasing number of apartment buildings are thinking about how they can meet your needs. (You can also use folding bikes for compact spaces.)
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In Portland, Ore., the collective voice of cyclists is louder than in many other American cities. In the last several years, Oregon's largest city has built a network of bike lanes, bike paths and streets designated with "sharrows" -- arrow-like symbols painted to remind motorists that they share the road with cyclists. Each morning, thousands of Portland cyclists commute to work. All of this has helped earn the city a reputation as one of the most cyclist-friendly in the nation -- and it sometimes has drawn curses and rude gestures from motorists who think there are too many bikes on the road.
North Portland, across the Willamette River from downtown, is emblematic of Portland's green and bike-catering nature. On North Williams Avenue, within a few blocks of each other, are a guesthouse, a bar and an apartment complex that all cater to cyclists, plus the United Bicycle Institute, which offers classes on bike repair. All are located on a major bike commuter route. Jean Pierre Veillet is developer of the building containing the apartment complex, called EcoFlats.
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In the vestibule is a line of 30 wall-mounted bike racks with a bike hanging from nearly every one. EcoFlats appeals to the green-conscious in other ways as well: On the roof, for example, is an array of photovoltaic and solar thermal panels. Also in the vestibule is a flat-screen monitor that shows the energy usage of each apartment, which creates competition among tenants to be energy-efficient.
On the ground floor is the Hopworks BikeBar, decorated with bike frames hand-crafted locally. Hopworks has a water bottle filling station, plus 99 empty bottles of beer on the wall -- all in bike water bottle cages.
"Three thousand people ride their bikes by here each day," said Veillet, standing in front of EcoFlats, which has 18 apartments.
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