08/10/2017 11:44 EDT | Updated 08/10/2017 17:16 EDT

Forget Car-Free Buildings. Bike-Only Condos Are Coming

More condo builders are coming up to speed in catering to this growing demand.

By Wayne Karl

More condos, more bike lanes, more cyclists... is there a collision in Toronto's future? Or are homes in the sky becoming more bike-friendly?

"I had no idea when I bought my condo that I wouldn't be allowed to take my bike upstairs," says John Brown (not his real name). "They forced me to park it outside. The week I moved in, it was stolen."

It's one example of the challenges Toronto faces — in addition to emotionally charged issues such as cars parking in bike lanes and road safety.

Toronto Star via Getty Images
A cyclist uses the newly opened bike lanes on Queens Quay between Yonge and Bathurst on June 18, 2015.

Indeed, the cycling culture is exploding in Toronto, and the city is investing in biking infrastructure and building more dedicated bike lanes — all to encourage greener living, a healthier lifestyle and other benefits of "growing up vertical."

But how bike-friendly are all the condos going up around the city?

Out with the old

Generally speaking, most older condos don't allow unit owners to bring bikes into common areas such as elevators, fearing damage, wear and tear and inconvenience to other residents. Nor do they want people storing them on their balconies, for safety and aesthetic reasons.

Developers have historically dealt with bike parking by delivering only the bare minimum requirement, which is one bike space per unit, according to a City bylaw.

But how that's delivered is determined by the developer. Some projects install bike racks in car parking spots, leasing them back to the owners. More complicated security systems, such as those that involve cameras, are cost-prohibitive, so stronger locks are usually the next step.

The good news is that more condo builders are coming up to speed in catering to this growing demand.

Some buildings require residents to lock their bikes outside, while others "look the other way" when residents bring their rides inside, says condo industry consultant Jeanhy Shim.

"Bikes are kind of the last thing on the list" when condos are designed. "They're what you squeeze into any spare space," says Shim.

This is especially true in parking garages, where space is at a premium, not just that allotted for cars but also for mechanical and other operations.

But all of this is changing.

Developers may not be bringing bike-friendly buildings to market as fast as cycling in the city is growing (some are calling it the #SummerOfTheBike), the good news is that more condo builders are coming up to speed in catering to this growing demand.

Some builders provide access to Bike Share, itself a growing program in Toronto. Others are making bike parking a higher priority amenity, while others still are going even further.

You've heard of car-free buildings. How about bike-specific condos?

It's happening.

Nobuyuki Yoshikawa/Aflo

Bike-specific condos

Scott Shields Architects is building 24 Mercer St., a 15-storey development near King Street West and Blue Jays Way that features 12 units — with no car parking, but 30 bicycle spots. This project is slated for completion in 2020.

One of the largest bike-friendly condos is 159 SW by Alterra Group, at the southwest corner of Wellelsey and Sherbourne. This 36-storey, 360-unit building, which recently began construction and is scheduled for completion in October 2019, will have parking for less than 80 cars — but an individual bike locker for each of its 360 units.

This project comprises 98 condo units and parking spots for 117 bicycles — and zero for cars.

The building will also provide a bicycle repair area, complete with tools, and will allow owners to take their bike into their unit.

Another company, Fieldgate Urban, has a proposal before the City to build a 16-storey mixed-use building, so far called 572 Church St., reflecting its address. This project comprises 98 condo units and parking spots for 117 bicycles — and zero for cars.

"This is a walking neighbourhood. We believe there is a strong market for residential without car parking at Church and Wellesley," David A. Mandell, vice-president, development for Fieldgate Urban, told NextHome. "We aren't marketing it as a bike-specific condo per se, although we believe we will get attention simply due to that fact."

If the project is approved, the company expects to begin marketing 572 Church in late winter 2018.

How bike-friendly is your condo?

So, if you're a cyclist, before you plunk down several hundred thousand bucks on a downtown unit, you might want to ask: How bike-friendly is that condo?

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