Mike Ratliff, Senior Associate Editor
If you have lived or worked in a metropolitan setting for the last few years you have probably witnessed the reemergence of urban cycling first hand. More people are hopping into the saddle each day as it is an affordable, healthy and fun way to run errands or get to work. Municipalities have embraced the trend and networks of bicycle lanes are popping up across the country with increased frequency. This is expected to create a positive feedback loop and a continued growth in cycling as an accepted and safe way to get around town.
Bicycle share programs are one of the more visible pieces of evidence when it comes to cycling growth. In 2010 Denver became the first U.S. city to institute a large bike share program. Minneapolis, Washington, Boston, Miami Beach and Kansas City have all followed suit. Even New York—not known as the most bike-friendly city—has plans to launch a 3,000-bike system in 2013. Perhaps the only inconvenience of these sponsored bike shares from a user standpoint is that they are designed for short trips and the final destination has to be near another lockup station. But bike shares tethered to apartment communities offer another tool for achieving complete transportation networks in cities both large and small. Apartment bike shares have the added benefit of being an inexpensive amenity that will improve the lives of your residents and help keep your asset fully leased.
Of course, most apartment developers and managers couldn’t point to a bike’s chainstay let alone change a flat. Luckily there is a bike share solution just for apartments called Zagster. Residents simply sign up (it is up to management whether to charge a nominal fee or rent bikes for free), request a bike and receive a text with a code. That code is used to unlock the bike at the home base inside the community and to lock it up wherever the user chooses over the course of their day. Zagster bikes are just as accessible as the system with a unisex step-through frame complete with fenders, racks, chain guards and wide tires for a comfy and clean ride around town.
“The bikes are really geared towards people who aren’t avid cyclists, but rather people who have ridden bikes as a child, or perhaps ride bikes every couple of years when they are on vacation,” says Tim Ericson, Zagster’s CEO and co-founder.
Zagster has now set up shop in several Related properties, and has brought their service to both Bozzuto and Forest City developments. This past fall Zagster announced it is supplying 15 on demand bikes for Forest City’s University Park at MIT, a 2.3 million-square-foot mixed-use campus with 531 residential units in Cambridge, Mass. One of the major of appeals for a bike share at a large, campus-like development is that the program cuts down on the amount of bike clutter that seems to inevitably make its way onto fences and street signs regardless of bike parking options. When there is a bike share program available, renters can leave their stead in mom and dad’s garage and grab wheels when they need them. Another major benefit of the program is that it is completely autonomous from property management.
“We set it up to be completely hands off for the properties. It is just like ZipCar or any other asset sharing model. If someone shows up and there is a flat tire, or someone hasn’t returned their rental, they fill out an incident report and we go out and fix it,” Ericson adds.
Zagster’s model was refined via input from Related Management as a solution for Related’s Simply Better brand, and it now operates in about 30 of the assets. The Class B and high Class C properties are typically garden-style communities tailored to provide clean and efficient living for working families.
“In 2011 we were developing the Simply Better brand, and we wanted to offer a unique set of amenities from what typical apartments provide, something that really helped define us,” says Michael Herrington, an avid cyclist and vice president at Related Management. “We came up with a series of attributes for our residents, and one of those was a wellness aspect. That is where the concept of a bike share originated.”
At the time Zagster was known as CityRide, and Ericson and his team were mainly involved on the software side of managing bike shares. But Herrington and Ericson hit it off and began bouncing ideas around.
“We just really wanted this full turnkey solution, where we didn’t really have to do anything,” Herrington says. “Today all a manager needs to do is call Zagster and the bikes show up. Their reservation system is already in place. Maintenance is included, and there is just this one bike per-month cost. It is just extremely easy to set up and sell to somebody.”
The majority of the Simply Better properties that Related Management equipped with Zagster’s bikes were located in the Sun Belt, and the program was met with widespread success. Herrington does admit that the bikes were a bit less popular in Michigan due to the state’s fondness for inclement weather. Colder areas with strong urban networks, however, have embraced the model.
“Our Boston location at One Back Bay which is part of the Related Rentals brand—ultra luxury if you will—has been remarkably successful when it comes to the bikes,” Herrington adds.
Zagster’s next stop with Related is New York, though Herrington couldn’t disclose whether or not the bikes will be part of the massive Hudson Yards development. He was able to confirm that the bike shares will become part of several existing luxury Related properties in the Big Apple.
If you have a property in a more urban locale (Fargo not included) and want to provide a unique service for current and potential residents, you just might want to look into setting up a bike share with Zagster.