Have Bike Lanes, Millennials Will Travel


Despite the common stereotype that Millennials are eager to leave the suburbs and experience city living, a new analysis says otherwise; as long as an area is pedestrian-friendly, Millennials will not rule it out as a potential place to reside.

A new analysis by Headwaters Economics found that the more pedestrian and bike-friendly a community is, the more desirable it will be for potential residents. In fact, homes near walkable and bikable trails enjoy premiums of 5 to 10 percent, the research group found, and other surveys claim that percentage is higher.

City suburbs are recognizing this trend, and the number of bike lanes within suburbs continues to rise with the goal of grabbing the attention of younger buyers and renters. Although there is no current statistics for Chicago, the property value of homes within one block of the eight-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail rose 148 percent from 2008 to 2014. Construction of the bike path took place from 2007 to 2013, concluding a relationship between the two.

According to a list developed by Niche, Schaumburg is the number one suburb of Chicago for Millennials to live in 2016; the rankings are based on access to bars, coffee shops and restaurants, in which Schaumburg got an “A” in all three categories. While that data doesn’t specifically correlate with how pedestrian-friendly the city is, it is safe to assume accessibility considers biking or walking, an option many Millennials utilize.

“What’s happening is, a little bit of the city is following people into the suburbs,” Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, tells Realtor.com. “Almost all the successful suburbs are building walkable, mixed-use [i.e., a housing and shopping combo] centers.”

Nearly 140 communities across the country have been designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community in the last year, and 63 of them were suburbs. While Chicago was one of these communities (recognized as the sixth most bike-friendly in America in 2015), making an entire city bicycle friendly would take longer than converting a suburb into that category. Eight of the Chicago Suburbs are classified as bike friendly, including Evanston, Batavia, Elmhurst, Glenview, Naperville, Oak Park, Schaumburg and Warrenville.

This does not mean Millennials are deserting the cities; it does, however, mean they are seeing it more as a place to work, rather than live, the analysis found. The cost of living is much higher in cities, and younger workers are willing to commute longer distances if their hometown has the amenities that make it Millennial-friendly.

“There are other options for people to get around now, and people are taking advantage of them because they cost less,” McMahon says. “When you live in a neighborhood that has interconnected streets and sidewalks and maybe a bike trail, people will go out and walk … just because they can.”