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As has been reported elsewhere, the pandemic’s impact on bicycling rivals the impact of $4/gallon gas in 2008.  Numerous stories have been published locally, such as here and nationally, such as here about the 2020 bike boom.  Bikes have even been coined as “the new toilet paper“, as shops have been unable to keep up with demand and bikes under $1000 are sold out.  The National Bicycle Dealers Association reported their recent survey found that 83% of “their shops are concerned about inventory levels.”

As we worked hard to help Pennsylvania bike shops gain “essential business”  status in the early days of the pandemic, we urged the City of Philadelphia to close MLK Drive to motor vehicles to allow more people to safely recreate while social distancing.  They responded positively and closed MLK Drive on March 20th.  Afterwards, we proposed that the City close more roads near parks elsewhere in Philadelphia and to create a network of temporary bike lanes to encourage more people to ride a bike to work than drive instead of taking transit.  This proposal, called Recovery Streets, is under consideration by the Kenney Administration.

We decided to circle back to Philadelphia bike shops to survey them to document how the bike boom was manifesting itself on the front lines.  We thought that it would be good demonstrate to the City what kind of demand there is for bicycling that the small business community is experiencing.  We sent a survey out to about 30 bike shops in Philly as an initial scan and 15 responded.  We intend to survey again later in the year and expand the survey to all regional shops in SE PA and New Jersey.  This survey was conducted before the civil unrest that started around May 30th.

The main take aways from the survey:

  • 60% of shops reported an increase in repairs
  • 42% of shops reported an increase in online sales
  • Demand for bikes and bike repairs has increased, but at the same time, reduced staff and increased safety protocols have slowed turnaround times
  • Being open without walk-in traffic did depress business
  • Most shop owners/managers feel the bike boom

We thank the bike shops for not only responding to our survey, but for working so hard to service essential workers and the rest of us so that we could safely bike to work and use a bike to get exercise and fresh air.  Thank you to all bike shop workers!

Sarah Clark Stuart

Author

Sarah’s foray into trail and bicycle advocacy began in 2004 when she became involved in the “Free Schuylkill River Park” campaign to preserve public access to the Schuylkill River Trail in Center City, now known as Schuylkill Banks. Since joining the Bicycle Coalition in 2006, she has been a key player in the Bicycle Coalition’s key accomplishments: the $23 million TIGER trail-building grant; naming and building out the Circuit; lobbying successfully for legislation mandating the inclusion of bike parking in new construction projects; Philadelphia’s Complete Streets policy; and coordinating research and analysis of several reports on bicycling in Philadelphia.

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