A look inside Via6's bicycle-friendly living and cycle club in downtown Seattle

Following the trend of growing enthusiasm for bicycling, Pine Street Group opened Seattle’s first bike-friendly residential mixed-use development earlier this year. Via6, located on 6th Avenue between Lenora and Blanchard downtown, showcases a few state-of-the-art best practices for both residential buildings and workplaces to accommodate bicycle commuting. A few of us at Cascade had the chance to tour (and model) the facilities available.

With Via6, Pine Street Group sought to build a residential mixed-use apartment complex that could facilitate carfree living with a bike shop, secure bicycle parking and other amenities to attract bicyclists as residents.

What  makes Via6 a "bicyclist's paradise"?

The 24-story, 654-unit apartment complex offers secure bicycle parking and a bike wash station for residents. Even more attractive for the avid bicyclist: Velo Bike Shop relocated from Capitol Hill will claim a retail corner on Via6’s ground floor.

Currently there are about 50 bicycle parking spaces for residents. While the developers had planned for 100 bicycle spaces, equipment for the restaurants on the ground floor ultimately constrained the bike room, but plans to expand are in the works. At right, Cascade's Stephanie Frans gives her Raleigh a scrub in the indoor bike wash station available to residents.

“We want to show people that you don’t necessarily need to own a car,” stated Matt Griffin, Principal and Managing Partner at Pine Street Group and the visionary behind Via6. “I’ve lived in downtown for a dozen years, and my wife and I haven’t owned a car in 10 years,” said Griffin. “I started thinking—what makes that possible?”

A few things immediately came to mind. While Downtown offers the couple convenient access to mass transit, many of their daily trips are easily made by bicycle. Griffin determined that a critical factor in making it easy to live carfree is having access to a bike shop in your building.

Not only does Via6 have Velo Bike Shop as a retail tenant, but Griffin went one step further and created the ViaBike Cycle Club to make bicycle amenities accessible to bike commuters entering downtown.

Members of the ViaBike Cycle Club enter through an elevator in the back of Velo Bike Shop.

Research finds that a key barrier to bicycle commuting is a lack of end-of-trip facilities like showers, lockers and secure bike parking at the workplace. The ViaBike Club offers a solution to employees who don’t have access to such amenities in their building. For a reasonable monthly fee, members gain 24-hour access to a secure bike room and a fully-equipped men's and women's locker room.

Since its mid-April opening, the bike club now has 35 new members, most of which work within two to four blocks of the facility. There's bike parking for over 150 more.

Cascade's Robin Randels and Ryann Child test out the women's locker room, equipped with showers, lockers, towel service and hair dryers.

Members can fix maintenance issues at a maintenance stand fully supplied with tools. Don’t have the time or skills to do it yourself? Members can also leave their bikes in one of two maintenance spots, fill out a repair request and a Velo Bike Shop mechanic will have it ready to ride by the end of the workday.

Lloyd Tamura, owner of Velo Bike Shop, gives Stephanie's bike a tweak on the maintenance stand available to ViaBike members. He's added a message board to create a bicycling information hub and foster community among Cycle Club members with postings about events and rides.

Via6 is the only branded bicycle-oriented, mixed-use residential complex of its kind in Seattle at the moment*, but with bike commuting on the rise nationwide, more and more apartment dwellers are demanding better accommodation for their bicycling lifestyle. While Griffin remains doubtful that other buildings would implement a similar Cycle Club concept, he recognizes the need and demand for more apartment and office buildings to incorporate bicycle amenities.

“Young urban workers that are in high demand in Downtown—this type of activity appeals to them,” Griffin stated.

*maybe not for long, according to a recent Puget Sound Business Journal article.

Bikenomics is a feature series to spotlight the greater Seattle area’s growing bike businesses. Know a business that should be featured? Send me an email at amrook@cascadebicycleclub.org.

Ryann L Child's picture
Ryann L Child