Bicycle Racks and a Civil Society

Hubby joins the Bicycle Diet and shows off the new bike rack at Winn Dixie

Very exciting news to report today.  Especially for bicycle dieters and commuters in Fairhope.  After a chilly group ride with some fellow slow bicyclists, the hubby and I made a beeline for the nearby grocery store to pick up a few essentials for Sunday night dinner.  I was delighted as I rolled up to the local Winn Dixie .   Delighted to see that they had installed a new bicycle rack.  Positioned on the sidewalk, just west of the inviting produce display out front, this fantastic amenity will benefit customers who, like myself, grocery shop by bicycle.  I hope it will also encourage other shoppers in the community to give two wheeling a try.

Back at the beginning of the year, when the bicycle diet had just begun, I wrote a letter to this local store and emailed the corporate office via their website, asking if they would consider adding a bicycle rack.  Within two weeks I received a telephone message from the local manager stating that a rack had been ordered and would be installed soon.  Well, I’m so very please to announce that it’s now in place and has served this bicyclist already.

Winn Dixie is the second grocery store in Fairhope to offer a bicycle rack to its customer.  I dare say, from my experience, its bike rack is one of only a half-dozen or so in town at all.  Perhaps other retailers in town will take a cue from WD and offer parking and other infrastructure for bicyclists.  Not just as a goodwill gesture, but because it makes economic sense.  Multiple studies indicate that it’s good for business to encourage bicycle riding consumers.  Madison, Wisconsin found that after “strategically [placing] bike racks outside … businesses in the downtown area … [they] saw a 3% overall increase in sales tax revenues in the areas where they deployed the new bike racks.” {1}   Another study “found that whilst bicycle-based consumers spend less per transaction, they make more visits and spend the most collectively.” {2}   That sounds right to me.  I can’t carry as much per trip on my bike as I can in my van, but I do visit more often.  I’d have to check the bank statement to say whether I spend more individually.

Anyway, the increased revenue is not just for retailers who invest in bicycle racks.  After Fort Worth, Texas installed bicycle parking in one of its popular districts, restaurants saw a “nearly 200 percent increase in business.” {3}   Just take a look at this photo from Flickr that compares the number of bicycle riding customers that can occupy the same physical space as a single automobile.

While it’s not for everyone, bicycle commuting and bicycle shopping does offer options for consumers and communities.  In the introduction to Bikenomics, Elly Blue notes that the bicycle not only “allows us to bow out of some of the economic constraints” of an automobile-centric life,” this simple two-wheeled machine is a transportation alternative that “allows us…the ability to reshape our…lives, health, and work, and to rebuild our communities and reclaim our civil society.” {3}

This bicycle dieter agrees.  Thank you, Winn Dixie, for your generous gesture of customer service.  It was a civic act that most certainly will pay economic and societal dividends to our little community by the bay.

References:

1.  “Economic Benefits of Bicycling in Urban Environments”.  Marin County (CA) Bicycle Coalition.  http://www.marinbike.org/Resources/EconomicBenefitsOfBicycling.pdf

2.  Schmitt, Angie.  “More Evidence That Bike Facilities Are Good for Local Businesses”.  StreetsBlogNetwork.

3. Blue, Elly.  Bikenomics:  How bicycling will save the economy (if we let it).   Zine first published on Grist.org.  2011.  Available in print from Takingthelane.com.

4.   “Bikenomics – Car Parking Versus Bike Parking.” Flickr:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyseven/6109880111/

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5 thoughts on “Bicycle Racks and a Civil Society

  1. Molly,

    I was inspired as I read this post. You are helping all us better understand what a livable community really is— one that is healthy and provides many choices. Businesses will, indeed, benefit from giving cyclists a option of having a safe place to park their bike while shopping. You are starting a trend that will grow—-and it s so much fun reading your posts!

  2. Outstanding! I like the graciousness of the original request and the courtesy of Winn Dixie’s updates.
    I’ll throw out a possible explanation for the higher collective spending stat – speculation based on my own behavior. I remember as a child my Mom would look at the weekly grocery specials in the newspaper and then map out a route to several stores. On a bike, it’s harder to do that. I tend to catch one store that’s on the way home from work, even if it’s the long way. Same store, day after day with all those little trips. I can behave a bit more like my Mom did by hooking up my trailer with a twenty gallon or so covered plastic bin lashed on to it. My community is such that I feel safe leaving one store’s purchases in the covered bin while I’m in a second or third store.

  3. A most positive action for a fine citizen of a most fine community. I am impressed & grateful, Lady. That rack reminds me of the hitching racks at Grady Hurst’s General Store back in the 1940s–and the next door saloon. There were always some horses & wagons hitched & waiting for their riders.

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