As I ride around my small upstate NY town, I find many times that bicycles are hated here. I mean they supposedly have a bike trail/route thing, but many local businesses, the city I live in, and the neighboring larger town and its businesses are the most bike unfriendly places I have ever lived in my life. I can only hope that things like letter writing campaigns, talking to politicians and lobbying my city council can create a better bike friendly city, but what about businesses? They get to make their own choices, and you can choose the ones that let you save gas, get in shape, save the environment, and even see the sights in your town by taking your bicycle. So whether you are a business owner, a bicycle enthusiast, or someone who shares my frustration with 300 car parking spaces and no bike rack this is for you.
Becoming a bicycle-friendly business does not require a lot of money. Often it takes only small actions and a little understanding to help out cyclist and get a green friendly reputation in the process. These small adjustments often go a long way and spread quickly in bicycling circles.
Have a basic flat repair kit / pump handy – Most good bike riders keep one of these on hand, but sometimes we all forget. One time that you save someone the toil of pushing their bike home for miles and they will never forget your business.
Have some maps around – getting lost is no fun, but I mean more like maps that may show people cool things to go see on their bicycles while in the vicinity of your business or town. You may even be able to acquire these at a Chamber of Commerce or tourism board in your area for cheap or free, if not take it as an opportunity to advertise. Either way this map will lead customers back to you.
Customer Programs – Offering special products and services to bicyclists will not only get you more customers now, but as word spreads it will also get you more customers later. It doesn’t have to be a discount either; one of my favorite incentives was a diner where I lived in Ft. Wayne Indiana that had a menu area called Bikers Lunch. It offered fare that high energy burning bicyclists may want. Some places like grocery stores offer a percentage off if you ride a bike AND bring your own grocery bags. (I used the saddlebags already on my bike.)
Employee Programs – Bicyclists are a loyal crowd, if some of them notice that your employees ride to work, volunteer at biking events or trail projects, or even just that you encourage them to, you will gain a lifetime loyal customer.
Promotion – Sponsorship and promotion of designated bicycling areas, such as on road bike lanes and off road trails, will put your business in a prominent place in the bike community. And if you don’t have a lot of money, going to, or sending a representative to, a Town Council meeting to express your businesses support of these measures will make you a bicycling folk hero. (OK I can’t guarantee that but it wont hurt you status as a green business either.)
Bike Parking – I saved the most important for last. Nothing is worse than getting to a shop and seeing they have no bike parking. I am forced to lock my bike in an unsafe area or just go home and maybe walk back…maybe not. I think that a unique looking bike rack, or a cheap recycled metal/ plastic rack, or even just a homemade wooden one will draw in a certain set of customers.
Bicycle tourists and cyclists, in general, are an extremely wired and connected community. News travels fast. And in Wisconsin, bicycle tourism is reported to bring $1.5 billion a year into the states economy, and that’s in Wisconsin, a sometimes VERY cold state. There are over 57 million cyclists in America, and as gas gets more expensive, global warming increases and environmental awareness grows, so will the number of bike riders in America. Hopefully your business will be ready!*would love any suggestions on this one from fellow bicyclists, comment below with your bike pet peeves.