Bicycle Sales Skyrocket As Paths Clog Up
Story and photo by Reid Neureiter, For the GPHN
With schools, gyms, and ski resorts closed and sports leagues shut down, cooped-up Denver residents are trying to get exercise any way they can – leading to unprecedented numbers taking up walking and cycling on the city bike paths.
The result: Unusual levels of crowding and traffic in Denver’s parks, and on the city’s sidewalks and bike trails. Garrick Mitchell, a Denver-based accident reconstruction engineer, has noticed a dramatic increase in the level of traffic on Denver’s bikes paths during the shutdown. Many more users – including cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, dog-walkers, and rollerbladers – are all using the paths.
An avid cyclist who has ridden more than 150,000 miles, Mitchell has also noted a wider diversity of people on the bike paths, both in age level and experience level.
“I’m seeing a much greater percentage of cyclists not wearing helmets,” he says, suggesting that these are either new cyclists or riders who have hauled out their old, unused bikes after years in storage. Mitchell expressed concern that many do not necessarily know the safe etiquette for using the paths, creating the potential for conflict and accidents (see sidebar for helpful tips).
The shutdown and associated social distancing has caused local bikes sales to skyrocket. Russell Griffin, founder and longtime owner of the Cycleton bicycle shop in Stapleton, reports record sales. Bicycle shops have been deemed essential services in Colorado, and Griffin says the demand for sales and service is unprecedented.
“Our whole store inventory has been wiped-out,” said Griffin, who says he’s been ordering 40-60 new bikes a week to keep up. He attributes the demand to impulse buying, as well as customers who would otherwise use mass transit who do not currently feel comfortable being in close quarters.
Russell is also seeing huge demand for bicycle mechanic services. “People are bringing their old bikes out of the woodwork,” he says. Those bikes need tune-ups. Unfortunately, Griffin has lost a number of his part-time mechanics. He usually hires a number of college students as mechanics each spring to satisfy increased demand. But with colleges closed, many of those students have returned home. So, Griffin is somewhat short-staffed, leading to a multi-week delay for service – as well as delays in getting new bikes built.
Bikes Together, Park Hill’s neighborhood nonprofit bicycle shop at 2825 Fairfax St., is trying hard to weather the coronavirus storm, balancing the demand for service with the need for physical distancing.
Chuck Bennett, chair of the Bikes Together board of directors, says the shop initially closed operations and cut back on staff hours while continuing to refurbish bikes for retail sale. Bikes Together reopened in early April with limited hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Bennett says the board obtained a loan under the federal Payroll Protection Program, and the shop is looking at extending hours. But as of mid-April, Bikes Together has been operating by appointment-only from noon to 5 p.m. so as to limit the numbers of people inside at one time.
“It has been busy since we reopened,” says Bennett. “There is pent-up demand for our services that we have not been able to meet yet. A key part of Bikes Together’s offerings includes our ‘Fix Your Bike’ program, in which people can use shop facilities and staff and volunteer help to fix their own bikes. We have not been able to reopen this program because of social distancing guidelines. We also sell high-quality, professionally refurbished bikes at very attractive prices to help support our mission.”
Bennett says the Payroll Protection loan will enable Bikes Together to support its staff for the next two months while expanding operations as conditions allow. He is also hopeful that the nonprofit will be able to operate its signature summer program, Bike Camp, while adhering to safety guidelines. Bikes Together continues to solicit donations of used bicycles for refurbishment – which is the primary source of its funding.
Garrick Mitchell’s Tips for Biking Etiquette
Six Steps For Kinder, Safer Cycling
• No. 1. Everyone (cyclists, walkers, joggers) should keep to the right. Denver’s bicycle paths are not wide enough to accommodate users going against traffic.
• No. 2. When passing, alert other traffic by using a bell or calling out, “On your left.”
• No. 3. Cyclists need to slow down around other path users. The posted speed limit on the paths is 15 miles per hour. On a busy path, filled with children and inexperienced users, even 15 miles an hour may be too fast to ride safely.
• No. 4. Dog walkers need to keep their dogs on leash and close by. Retractable leashes in particular are dangerous, as a dog might dart in front of a passing cyclist.
• No. 5. Do not stop on the path. Instead, step off the path to rest or talk.
• No. 6. Pay attention and use all your senses – including hearing. If you must listen to music while riding or running, consider only wearing one earphone, so you can still hear out the other ear. Be alert to whether other trail users are wearing headphones and might not hear you approaching from behind.