I feel strongly about the role of business in helping support cycling culture, because businesses can be the destinations for cyclists. Shoppers, workers, browsers, patients, clients: we can all get to businesses on our bicycles.
But a lot of businesses don't seem to see us as clients. Bike racks are often an afterthought, if they are thought of at all. There are no bike racks at the Kitchener strip mall where I go to fill see my doctor, fill prescriptions and get blood tests. At the mall I visit to buy groceries and hardware, the bike racks are placed well out of the way, and almost out of sight, often being blocked by shopping carts at the grocery store, and pallets of fertilizer at the hardware store.
Do these business operators really want me to be there?
That was one of the questions raised at today's Waterloo Region Cycling Forum at the Kitchener Auditorium. More than 50 people — from bicycle clubs, community associations, municipal departments, the universities and cycling advocates — turned out to meet in focus groups to discuss the Region's bicycling future, under three themes: Safety and Education; Promotion and Branding; and Bikes and Business. Participants rotated through the tables, and had a chance to contribute thoughts to each theme.
For the Bikes and Business tables, bicycle parking was huge. Kevan Marshall, a planner with the Region's Transportation Demand Management department, who presented the B&B recommendations, said participants asked why it is that many malls have dedicated parking lot space for expectant mothers, but not for bicycles. Could businesses consider having a shelf for cyclists to leave their bags or helmets? In retail core areas, could businesses pool their resources to deliver goods to the home of a cyclist who stopped at several shops?
The message, said Marshall, is "Act like you want us here."
Those retailers who cultivate the cycling consumer will help build their future customer base.