Downtown Ottawa landlords expand cycling infrastructure as popularity of bike commuting grows

With connections to Rideau Canal and cycling lanes, 1 Nicholas features showers and bike storage facilities
Michael van Aanhout

Imagine arriving at work happier, energized and with more money in your wallet.

Sound like a dream? That’s the reality for a growing number of Ottawa professionals who travel to work on two wheels instead of four, opting for a bicycle as their transportation method of choice. The ability to have a sustainable, predictable and cost-effective commute is becoming more attractive to employees, making workplaces that are deemed “bike-friendly” increasingly sought-after by employers.

“Being out in the fresh air is one of the best ways to start my morning,” says Michael van Aanhout, chairman of Stratos, a consultancy located at 1 Nicholas St., at the corner of Rideau Street. “We live in a beautiful city, and both the benefits of exercise and sustainability are major motivators to get on my bicycle.”

Stratos, which has called 1 Nicholas home for the past 20 years, is focused on sustainability. This means cycling to work is closely aligned with the company’s values.

Noting that the city-installed bike racks at Nicholas and Besserer streets were consistently full, District Realty – the building’s property management firm – installed additional racks in a loading area monitored by security cameras.

“It was important for us to be able to provide our tenants with sufficient cycling infrastructure, so we went out and purchased more,” says Michael Morin, a commercial property manager at District Realty.

“Many of us cycle to work or run along the canal at lunchtime, so having facilities that support those activities is really appreciated.”

In addition to the recently expanded bike lockup area, the building also features shower facilities, lockers and a changing area for tenants. Morin says District Realty is also looking at designating indoor space for a swipe-access bike lockup that would come at no extra charge to tenants. That’s something van Aanhout says would be welcome.

“Most of our staff are pretty active,” says van Aanhout. “Many of us cycle to work or run along the canal at lunchtime, so having facilities that support those activities is really appreciated.”

Offering such bike-friendly amenities is exactly how property owners can help promote cycling to work, says Heather Shearer, president of Bike Ottawa, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for safer cycling in the capital.

“Biking to work is becoming a pretty normal thing to do,” says Shearer as May, the city’s official Bike to Work Month, comes to a close. “The main thing commercial property owners can provide to tenants who choose to cycle to work is a safe place to store bicycles. Some place that is protected from weather is ideal and well-lit to accommodate those that work later into the evening.”

A report on employee productivity produced by commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank states that with all other factors being equal, work environment could very well tip the scale for an employee’s decision whether to stay with their current company or accept a new position.

Shearer agrees that belonging to a bike-friendly workplace is “huge” for cyclists. “People are looking for a predictable commute time,” says Shearer, noting that cyclists also save money on gas. “Biking to work means employees arrive in a good mood. It gets you moving and has incredible physical and mental benefits.”

For van Aanhout, Stratos’ location at 1 Nicholas can’t be beat.

“The expansion of the Rideau Centre, the newly renovated Ottawa Art Gallery, and our proximity to the ByWard Market, bike paths, the canal and our downtown clients means our location just keeps getting better and better.”

There are currently several blocks of space available for lease inside 1 Nicholas St. Companies and organizations interested in office space options in the heart of downtown Ottawa can explore their options at http://bit.ly/District-1-Nicholas.