Encouraging Bicycling to Bring Businesses to Bring More Bicycling

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There have been plenty of articles and blog posts about a downward trend in millennials’ ownership of cars and homes, with the concern that we may be hurting the economy. Baby boomers, according to this NBC piece, are more likely to buy cars than we are.

Referenced as the “cheapest generation”, this Atlantic piece dives into the generational shift in spending habits of Gen X and Gen Y as reasons for plummeting consumption of autos and other big-ticket purchases like homes.

But the auto industry being what it is, it’s trying to woo us back, by trying to appeal to our likes, assuming that all we want is an edgier alternative to driving, like driving an edgier-looking car. This Streetsblog does a better job at making the courting process pathetic, so read that.

Swiss Postbus with bicycle rack
This rack is amazing.
Karen Blakeman | Flickr

There are plenty of theories as to why millennials aren’t buying cars and homes—like we don’t care about buying cars or homes, the recession screwed us big time, or we really care about the environment—but then there’s this Forbes piece suggesting it’s actually none of those things.

We’re all just a bunch of entitled brats, refusing to compromise or downgrade in our specific, bloated wants. The writer even admits to her own entitlement, when she finally got her driver’s license at 17, only after being given a red convertible. Her brother apparently did the same at 18, and a BMW of sorts.

Whatever the reasons, millennials just aren’t buying cars, and our culture and environment is shifting the way we approach how we live and move around.

One method being bicycles.

Bicycles as a mode of transportation, and just plain ol’ leisurely pleasure, is growing. It’ll only continue to grow as metropolitan areas begin developing supporting infrastructure (like bike share programs and improved bike lanes in cities).

But it’s not enough to just have the dedicated bike lanes and a decent bike share program. The community needs to get in on it too, because if the community gets in on it and supports the bike people, their businesses will, in return, be supported. Look at all that love.


The pleasant pace of traveling by bicycle affords us every chance to literally stop and smell the flowers along a roadside, shop at a local market, enjoy a a museum previously unknown to us, eat at a roadside restaurant (we eat a lot!) and stay in local accommodations.

Compared with car, train or bus travel that is almost 5 times the economic impact over the same distance!

Pulling from their experiences in Austria, the folks at Two Wheel Travel suggest five simple things businesses can do to encourage bike travel.

Although these suggestions go more towards bike touring, the basics, I think, can be implemented for regular bike transportation as well—the short errand from the grocery store with a pit stop at your fave coffee bar.

Bicycle rack Portland
Sue Kellerman | Flickr

Bike Parking: Bicyclists are more likely to stop at businesses or visit a place with basic bike parking facilities. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive, but a well thought out, and secure bike parking could attract people on bikes.

In Bethesda, Md., just outside D.C., the one thing I noticed is the lack of well-designed bike racks. Sure, there are these awkward rectangular poles that people string their bikes too, but I’m wondering what kind of boost in business these shops would see if there were actual bike racks, strategically located throughout the downtown area.

Tools: The idea of a repair point in a village or along the trail is interesting, and one I’m wondering can be implemented here. The only bike shop I know of that’s located right on the trail is City Bikes, on Georgetown Branch Trail near Connecticut Ave. I think it’d be a great concept for the store to add a “repair box” with pumps and basic tools right on the trail, not only as a way to give bicyclists a spot to make quick fixes, but as a way to potentially get people to come into their shop.

I’ve never seen anything like the Rad-Points Two Wheel Travels found in Austria, but it would be nice to see some repair and pump boxes around D.C.

Maps: Businesses that provide maps are telling cyclists to stop and visit. Not only does providing a clear map of area trails (and area bike-friendly businesses) a plus for the town and community, but it’s inviting, telling cyclists to take a break and enjoy some sweet cocoa or coffee. To take in the small town.

You can never go wrong with a well-designed, clearly marked map. Sadly, this is one thing that seems to be lacking in the DC area. The maps I’ve seen on the trail are faded, difficult to read, and just bleh. It would be nice to see maps near local businesses as well though.

Well-marked routes and signs: I don’t know what it is about the U.S., but they seem to lack brains in the signage design and placement department. Without clearly marked signage, people won’t bike, which means lost business potential. And lost opportunity to try new foods. (It’s all about the coffee and munchies.)

Bike Friendly: This is probably a no-brainer, but businesses that advertise their bike lovingness, are sure to get all the bike love they can handle.


On a similar note, bicycling can also spur business!

Because bikes are flexible, allowing us to pretty much stop where the hell we damn well please, unlike cars and trains, bicyclists are great potential customers. This is what some business owners featured in this Moementum Mag article figured out after, basically, observing their environment.

There’s also this handy infograhpic that highlights the article’s key points. (Click on the image to enlarge)

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