There has been a request from VANOC and the Olympic committee asking Citygate and False Creek residents to keep their festive lights up and on throughout the Olympics so the world can see us.
Presumably this request can even include the festive Christmas lights that some boat owners festoon their masts along the waterfront.
What would be an equivalent, visibility tactic for the cycling community to announce the significance of cyclists?
It could be as simple as keeping your helmet on your head when you are shopping. This action would go a long way towards changing the perception of local business retailers that their customer base and retail sales comes from car
drivers. It may start stopping retailers’ complaints any time that a new bike lane at their store entrance takes away more street car parking. It may start retailer action to call for more storefront bike parking racks. It may change perception that cyclists in a store does not contribute to the bottom line of retailer sales and profitability. A “helmet-on-campaign-while shopping” would remind retailers that cyclists do comprise more of their customer base than retailers might realize.
Cyclists do shop, contribute to local businesses and the economy. Like everyone else, they still consume products and services. In fact, cyclists, without the burden of paying for car maintenance, may have more money available for shopping.
In downtown Toronto, there has been an ongoing debate on implementation of a bike lane on the busy Bloor Street west of Spadina Rd., an area known as the “Annex”. For many decades and still now, the Annex is a gentrified neighbourhood with busy cafes, restaurants, independent shops, community centre and services that draw patrons and convivial street life.
A recent study of 61 local merchants, 531 patrons, and parking space use, revealed only 10% of patrons drive to the Bloor-Annex area. Pedestrians and cyclists were spending more money than the drivers. This is not surprising since the area is served by 3 different subway station exits, feeder bus lines and an established bike lane grid in this Bloor St neighbourhood.
Meanwhile in Vancouver, the Canada Line opened in late August 2009. Now changes in customer levels have been noted to be modest for businesses along the Canada Line on Cambie St. Businesses closer to stations have seen an increase in foot traffic. The full effect of a switch from car-based shopping to people-based shopping takes time. It takes more than a full year business cycle for commuters to establish changes in their transportation choice, travel and shopping patterns.
Since no one is constantly monitoring where bikes are locked up outside shops, then the bike helmet is the beacon to signal retailers that another customer that has just arrived –in a different way.
Third Wave believes that a carefully thought out bike parking strategy for a retail neighbourhood would enhance local sales and retailers’ financial bottom line. Time to park a bike, proximity to retailers’ storefront door, and perceived personal and bike safety are some of the critical components in such a strategy. Third Wave specializes in bike parking planning.
Bike Lanes, On Street Parking and Business: A Study of Bloor Street in Annex’s Neighbourhood. Toronto: Clean Air Partnership Fund, Feb. 2009.
Morton, Brian. “Customer Traffic up Modestly Since Canada Line Opened, Cambie Street Merchants Say.” Vancouver Sun. Dec. 7, 2009.