Bike shops are booming while LA does nothing to meet demand, and the Covid bike boom keeps getting bigger

My apologies for yesterday’s unexcused absence, due to an unanticipated ride on diabetic blood sugar rollercoaster.

Yet another reminder to do whatever it takes to get your own blood sugar under control before it’s too late, because you seriously don’t want this crap.

Never mind that diabetes puts you at greater risk of serious complications from Covid-19.

Fun times.

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Yes, it’s true.

For weeks now, we’ve been linking to stories reporting about a nationwide bike boom brought on by the coronavirus crisis.

And lately, about how that boom is leading to a looming lack of bicycles across the US, as local bike shops sell out of their existing stock, and the usual endless bike pipeline unexpectedly dries up.

That was confirmed locally when I spoke with Carlos Morales, my brother from another mother and owner of Stan’s Bike Shop in Azusa, who says he’s never seen anything like it.

According to Morales, he’s spoken with longtime bike shop owners who say there hasn’t been anything like this since the bike boom of the ’70s.

He says his shop has been so busy that he sometimes has to lock the front door to prevent overcrowding, or just catch his breath for a few minutes.

Morales has been lucky so far that he’s been able to develop sources for bikes and parts outside the usual distributors, and has been able to keep his store fully stocked as a result. In fact, he says his shop is overflowing with tubes and tires right now.

Many others haven’t been so lucky, telling Morales that the bikemakers and distributors they usually rely on have run out of bicycles, and aren’t expecting to restock until late summer or fall.

Which could make for a very long summer.

I heard the same thing from another source yesterday, when I exchanged emails with Alison Littlefield, owner of Utah’s Contender Bicycles.

Yes, Utah has been the same. It is wild. In mid-March when all of this hit, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that bike biz would boom. It is just crazy and we should all consider ourselves very, very lucky. In the winter even before COVID, I felt like we were a little heavy on inventory but I am sure happy we were.

Maybe this is exactly what the bicycle industry needs.

Just a few short months ago, many shops were hurting. It wasn’t unusual to see reports of longtime shops going under, or owners throwing in the towel after deciding it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

But many of those bike shops that have managed to stay open during the coronavirus lockdowns are reaping the rewards.

Even those without bikes left to sell are struggling to keep up with service requests.

Morales says repair work at his shop is now taking about five days. Which is short compared to other SoCal shops he’s spoken with, where it can take as long as 25 days just to get a bike on the bench, let alone do the actual work.

Of course, the question is what will happen when businesses reopen, and drivers flood back onto the streets.

Other cities have installed temporary bike lanes during the pandemic, with an eye towards making them permanent when this is finally over. Or building out the city’s bike plan while streets are quieter and the work can be done faster.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, is doing nothing.

No bike lanes. No progress on Vision Zero. Not even the “comprehensive Citywide network of active transportation corridors” that were promised just a few months ago, when the mayor unveiled his latest iteration of the city’s Green New Deal with typical fanfare.

With the typical lack of followthrough so far.

That matters.

Because the clock is ticking. It takes about three months for bicycling to become a habit for a new rider, according to Morales.

And as we’ve all too often seen, once someone gets frightened off the streets, they seldom come back.

Right now, we have a once in a generational opportunity to reshape our streets, and change the way people get around this city.

But so far, Los Angeles is blowing it.

Which means when motorists come back, we’ll be back in exactly the same mess we were in before.

And our streets will continue to grind to a halt, until no one can go anywhere.

Bike shop photo by Michael Gaida from Pixabay.

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I found Ms. Littlefield by following one of those typically winding online trails, fueled by lockdown boredom, which somehow led to a search for corgi bike jerseys.

No, really.

And unexpectedly turned up this.

Needless to say, I had to have it.

But when I couldn’t find it on the Contender website, Littlefield explained I was a few years too late. The jersey was for long past fundraiser for the Utah Humane Society.

So for now, I’ll have to content myself with gazing admiringly at the store’s PR staff.

But if they ever bring that jersey back, they can just come and take my money.

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More on the boom in bicycling.

KCRW talks with the founder of Linus Bikes about the bike boom, and whether it will continue.

A Beverly Hills newspaper says the bicycling trend is growing stronger in the city. Which is something no one would have expected just a few years ago; although you’ll have to click through and download the online edition of the paper to access the story.

The numbers for Brooklyn, and New York as a whole, are way up as more riders take to the streets.

A Florida bike shop says they had four months of sales in April alone.

HuffPo questions whether America’s interest in carfree streets will outlast the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s not just the US. Bikes are booming in South America, as well, from Bogota to Buenos Aires.

Meanwhile, tone-deaf Uber responds to the nationwide bike shortage by sending thousands of Jump ebikes to the scrapheap.

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CiclaValley and child get their 15 minutes of joyful fame.

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The war on cars is a myth, but the war on bikes goes on.

A British man will spend the next 12 weeks in a back brace after a driver appeared to intentionally knock him off his bike before fleeing the scene; a woman says a driver deliberately swerved at her as she rode the same road on the same day. Having spent a similar amount of time in a back brace, I can testify that it’s no fun.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

Police in Humboldt County are looking for a bike-riding porch pirate.

A popular, long-time Colorado bike shop worker died in a struggle with police, who tased him as he brandished a knife.

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Local

Former LA city planner Dick Platkin relates what he’s learned about Los Angeles on his daily bike rides during the coronavirus lockdown. And the picture ain’t pretty.

Slow Streets are catching on fast in LA’s Mid City West neighborhood.

Santa Monica’s Breeze bikeshare remains free during the coronavirus crisis, thanks to a grant from the city.

 

State

Slow Streets are spreading across San Diego, with the county coming soon.

An alleged sexual assault suspect was beaten to death near a Ventura bike path after the victim cried out for help.

Tragic news from San Jose, where a 40-year old man died following a collision with another bike rider on Guadalupe River Trail. And no, he was not wearing a helmet, even though crashes like this are exactly what bike helmets are designed for.

Sad news from Petaluma, where a father of two young children was killed riding his bike by a driver stoned on prescription drugs, who crossed onto the wrong side of the road.

More sad news, as a 63-year old woman was killed in a bicycling crash in Chico.

 

National

Thrillist swears you can get a great bike for under $500. Which is nearly as cheap as a bicycle-shaped object from a big box store.

A local business paper talks with the Executive Director of the Hawaii Bicycling League about the problems facing nonprofits. Like maybe a name that suggests competition rather than advocacy.

Bike Portland’s Jonathan Maus offers a difficult and painful meditation on racism, public space and transportation activism in the wake of Amy Cooper and the police killing of George Floyd. Sadly, cars aren’t the only danger people of color face on the streets. As a nation, we have to do better.

A new study from the University of Washington confirms that bikeshare is getting commuters to leave their cars at home.

A Boulder CO bike rider who barely survived a hit-and-run driver has advice on how to drive on coronavirus-light streets. Hint: Put down your phone and take you damn foot off the gas pedal.

A Chicago bike rider was critically injured when he was struck by a 16-year old boy who jacked an SUV at gunpoint; the same SUV nearly ran down three other riders, as well.

Slow Streets are coming to Chicago, too.

Something is seriously wrong when you can kill a 13-year old kid riding his bike in upstate New York, and walk away without so much as a ticket.

He gets it. A professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University says poor and black “invisible bicyclists” need to be part of post-pandemic transport planning, too.

Bikeshare provider Zagster is pulling out of the Atlanta area due to the coronavirus pandemic; they pulled the plug on my hometown, too.

New Orleans’ bikeshare system could be in jeopardy as Uber transfers ownership to Lime, which doesn’t seem it want it, either.

Leave it to New Orleans not to pass up a chance to get naked. Even though this year’s edition of the World Naked Bike Ride has been cancelled most places, Big Easy riders will still strip down and saddle up, albeit in multiple rides of less than ten people.

Peter Flax is up to his usual moving work, as he takes an emotional, in-depth look at one-legged Paralympic cycling champ Leo Rodgers, calling him “the kind of cyclist we all need right now.” Meanwhile, the local Tampa FL paper takes pride in a hometown hero making the cover of Bicycling.

 

International

A new study shows even short amounts of bicycling activates a “cellular vacuum cleaner” to clear out muscular damage to keep things in working order. Although it would be a lot more appealing if they didn’t call it the “death marker protein.”

Bike Radar has tips for getting into, or back into, biking to work, while Cycling Weekly explains what you need to know before buying your first bike. Like it will only make you want another one. And another.

A Vancouver weekly says the city is setting the standard for North American bicycling.

Brit bike icon Chris Boardman is calling for presumed liability to protect bike riders in a post Covid-19 world.

It takes a real schmuck to just keep going after plowing into a handicapped British bicyclist riding a handcycle. Or in this case, two motorcycle-riding schmucks.

Great idea. A Scottish inventor and an Olympian are teaming up to crowdfund new bicycling sunglasses with built-in mirrors to see what’s behind you. Now if they just make them in a prescription version, I’m in. Thanks to Robert Leone for the tip.

Scary story from Ireland’s former minister of state, who thought he was going to die on the side of the road after breaking his neck when his bike hit a tree stump.

Bicycling gets an inside look at Sweden’s MIPS as they work to prevent damage from concussions. Although sometimes a bike helmet doesn’t look like one.

Offers have been pouring in for the 15-year old Indian girl who carried her injured father over 700 miles home on the back of her bicycle. But all she wants is to go back to school.

A South African cyclist says the country’s roads are a war zone after a negligent driver nearly ended his life.

An Aussie political official has been posting online about riding to work in recent weeks. But she failed to mention she was riding because she’d lost her driver’s license earlier this year for multiple speeding tickets.

 

Competitive Cycling

German pro André Greipel is teaming with Strava for the Ride Around the World challenge on June 3rd’s World Bicycle Day to fight ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Spanish pro Gustavo César Veloso lost two bikes and gear worth over $11,000 when thieves jumped the wall to his house.

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Finally…

Everything you always wanted to know about Everesting but were afraid to ask. Is that a billy club in your bike shorts, or are you just happy to…well, you know.

And fix those squeaky brakes, already.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And wear a mask, already. 

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