When the return to the office finally arrives, the need to maintain social distancing (and a nervousness around public transport) will mean we are likely to see a massive demand for cycle storage and other commuter facilities. Office managers should be asking themselves, are we ready?
Some buildings currently have ample provision, but even these will require landlords and tenants to work together to manage allocation and arrival times. Avoiding bottle necks will be key in maintaining social distancing. Co-operation and organisation will be important, but those willing to embrace proptech may have an early advantage.
Many offices are still without sufficient commuter facilities. For these the challenge will be accommodating the new cyclists and other active commuters. It is not just a question of cycle storage, but also changing rooms, lockers, showers and drying facilities. These are not easily retrofitted into currently occupied buildings. Could this be an opportunity to temporarily repurpose unused retail space?
The rise of cycling has been steadily increasing in recent years, with TfL's current data showing a 5% growth in annual journeys in the capital. This has been a manageable trend, with the supply and demand for commuter facilities being broadly in balance. However, with some in the industry predicting current cycling levels could triple with the new Covid commuters and Sadiq Khan announcing he will make London one of the world's largest car-free zones, could facilities simply become overwhelmed?
It might be tempting to think that any difficulties in the near term are temporary and things will eventually go back to normal. While the response to Covid may cause numbers to spike, the growth in cycling is also in due to the advance of the green and wellness agendas, which are not going anywhere. It is easy to imagine that once the tide comes in, it will not go out again. This should therefore be viewed as a longterm issue and strategic decisions should be taken accordingly.
Ultimately if employees want to cycle to work, they will look for jobs that allow them to do this. Businesses will therefore need to find buildings with good commuter facilities to enable them to attract and retain the best talent. Landlords and investors should start considering how they can provide these facilities to attract occupiers and maintain their rental yields.
For real estate owners, now would be a good time to improve the facilities cyclists need, like bike storage and showers in offices, to help people to embrace this transition