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From Denmark to the United States: A Bike Boss Travels Westward

From Denmark to the United States: A Bike Boss Travels Westward

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This piece reports on the important role that bike dealers often play in U.S. cities.
This piece reports on the important role that bike dealers often play in U.S. cities.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Nov 04, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The concept of private-public partnership in general is a topic that receives quite a lot of attention in Europe in general, and in transportation in particular. This brief focuses on examples of how bicycle retailers in the United States promote cycling, especially within transportation policy. Through examples in Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Long Beach, CA; San Diego, CA; and Boulder, CO, this brief shows the important role that bike dealers
often play in U.S. cities, rst as
commercial voices in the debate on cycling facilities and urban development, and second as actors who take local action to improve conditions for cycling.
In Focus Reports from the Urban and Regional Policy Program
Urban Current
From Denmark to the United States:  A Bike Boss Travels Westward
by Andreas Røhl
1744 R Street NW Washington, DC 20009 1 202 683 2650 F 1 202 265 1662 E ino@gmus.org
November 2013
Copenhagen is considered one o the best cities or bicycling in the world. Given the renewed worldwide interest in promoting cycling or positive impacts on health, climate, city lie, and traffic congestion, my office in Copenhagen’s Bicycle Programme has received hundreds o delegations rom around the world during the last couple o years. I have repeat-edly visited the United States to give presentations.Tough hearing the questions or observations o the visitors or hosts is always inspiring, the topic o coop-eration has consistently interested me. I have been impressed by the way private and public organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work together in the United States, not just lobbying or decisions and unds, but also shaping ideas and implementing projects or the common good. Tis is being done in Denmark but not nearly to the same extent or with the same proession-alism.I do believe that there is enormous potential in Denmark to increase cooperation between the public and the private sector to 1) urther improve the conditions or cycling in Copen-hagen and Denmark and maximize the societal benefits o this mode o travel; and 2) contribute to the city o Copen-hagen’s ability to engage in public-private partnerships. Moreover, the concept o private-public partnership in general is a topic that receives quite a lot o attention in Europe, and is one where I believe there is the greatest potential or transatlantic knowledge sharing. Tereore, receiving a grant rom Te German Marshall Fund to  visit the United States was a unique opportunity to research promoting bicycling in cities through public-private partnerships. Tough this article is ocused on examples o how bicycle retailers in the United States promote cycling in a general way (this article also appeared in a retailers magazine in Denmark in order to provide inspiration or Danish bicycle retailers) my meetings with staff rom municipalities, private businesses, and NGOs also provided  valuable inormation or my own work. I have already put my experi-ences to use in Copenhagen through an increased emphasis on partnering with the business community as a part o Copenhagen’s bicycle parking program, and involving large compa-nies in the ongoing promotion o the
In Focus Reports from the Urban and Regional Policy Program
Urban Current
Cycle Super Highways that are currently under construction in the greater Copenhagen area. It is also my goal to work with bicycle retailers in Copen-hagen to implement some o the concepts mentioned below. Partly inspired by the “bicycle repair pit stop,” we are currently considering the use o mobile bike repair shops in newly developed urban areas that do not yet have permanent bike shop. A small scale pilot project o this was a success. Te next step will be to test it on a larger scale and build it up into a durable public-private partnership. Underscoring the Danish bicycle industry’s economic importance, in Copenhagen alone, bicycle dealers and other bike-related companies have a turnover o approximately 1.5 billion Danish Kroner per year, equaling approximately $350 million. Close to 1,000 people work in the industry. Tese figures can likely be at least doubled in the case o Denmark as a whole. For example, the value o the cargo bikes utilized throughout Denmark is about 500 million Danish Kroner ($120 million), the vast majority o which are produced by Danish companies. More than one-third o all those working or studying in Copenhagen choose to bike when they commute. Tat so many people choose to bike rather than drive or take public transit illustrates the bicycle’s cost efficiency as a mode o transportation. Te bicycle’s popularity also has many other benefits or the municipality, such as in reeing tax unds rom road construction to be used or other purposes, such as education. In addition, as the Danish Congestion Commission recently pointed out, as more individuals choose to cycle or short trips, more space on the road will be available or trips where trucks and cars are the only reasonable option.In November 2012, thanks to an Urban and Regional Policy Fellowship rom Te German Marshall Fund, I completed a study tour in the western United States, visiting Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Long Beach, CA; San Diego, CA; and Boulder, CO. I ocused on how public and private partners can work together to promote cycling in cities. I chose these cities because they represented inspiring ways o working with partnerships. Long Beach and San Diego were the first places where the concept o Bike Friendly Business Districts were implemented; San Francisco has a very strong and proessional bicycle interest organization (San Francisco Bicycle Coalition); and staff in the city o Portland has considerable experience in using public-private partner-ships to promote cycling. Finally, Boulder is the home o Bikes Belong, a bicycle interest organization supporting city cycling efforts throughout the United States. During my research, I also observed the important role that bike dealers ofen play in U.S. cities, first as commercial  voices in the debate on cycling acilities and urban develop-ment, and second as actors who take local action to improve conditions or cycling. Tough acknowledging that conditions and the local context in Denmark are different, the ollowing describes my experience in the United States, which I hope will inspire industry (i.e. the Danish bicycle retail sector), and inorm my ongoing work in the City o Copenhagen.
“More People on Bikes More Often”
Portland is ofen highlighted as the leading cycling city in the United States. In Portland, cycling makes up 6-8 percent o the trips, among the highest in the United States. Jay Graves has 30 years experience in the bike industry and owns Te Bike Gallery, a chain o seven bike shops in Port-land with over 100 employees. Graves does not just operate shops, but also plays a central role in the effort to urther improve cycling conditions and to give local residents the
Portland is a city for cycling, here a bookseller with homemade bicycle parking, incorporating book titles.
In Focus Reports from the Urban and Regional Policy Program
Urban Current
option to cycle in Portland. Tis work is ofen done in collaboration with tourism organizations, the city, and other private, public, and NGO partners. Te Bike Gallery’s partner-ships take many orms. For example, Graves was the instigator and later the provider o a ree mechanic service or the annual exercise bike race, “Cycle Oregon,” which has evolved into a million-dollar busi-ness. Graves also started Te Community Cycling Center, a non-profit organization that collects, renovates, and then sells or donates bicycles or children and adults. It also offers community programs such as summer camps and bicycle repair courses. Graves spends so much o his time promoting cycling or three major reasons. First, he cites his ather, who was also a bike dealer and instilled in Grave the idea o giving back to the community that supports his shop. “You provide back to your community,” he said. Second, he reerences a simple business reason: the more people cycle, the better or business. Tird, Graves believes the community work is returned back to him in the orm o more customers. Surveys among his customers have shown that Te Bike Gallery’s active and advocacy role is the third most impor-tant reason why customers patronize Graves’ store, second only to “selection” and “location.” Te first time he spoke with local politicians, Graves dealt with a case o nerves. “I was scared witless,” Graves said. While local leaders have not always agreed with Graves’ stance on local policy, they still greeted him with respect and responsiveness, whether in a business or cycling context. Since my visit, Jay Graves has sold his stores.
Pit Stop on Main Street
In downtown San Francisco, I met Zach Stender o Huckle-berry Bikes on Market Street. With several thousand bicy-cles passing his shop daily, Stender has sought to combine his mission to promote cycling with his goal o attracting more customers into the store. Each weekday morning between 7:30 and 9:30, Huckleberry Bikes offers ree services and small repairs in an old news-paper stand a ew hundred yards rom the store. Te service allows people to more easily commute on their bikes, while also giving the shop an opportunity to interact with poten-tial customers.For the mechanics, adding some air to a tire, pouring a little oil on a chain, or tightening a nut gives them work and ofen leads to more business. Tey ofen discover the need or other major repairs that require a later trip to the store. Te initiative has been so successul and well-received by the community that another company now sponsors the mechanics’ wages. In his role as a business owner, Stender also regularly provides input on potential municipal bike projects by commenting in the press and participating in public meet-ings. Additionally, he serves as an advisor to the San Fran-cisco Bicycle Coalition, which has over 12,000 members. In many ways, he eels a certain obligation to advocate or
Yes, there are hills in San Francisco. And yes, there is a good deal of cycling taking place, here on Market Street. Complete with pit stops for small bike repairs during weekdays.

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