In Focus Reports from the Urban and Regional Policy Program

November 2013

Urban Current
hagen and Denmark and maximize the societal benefits of this mode of travel; and 2) contribute to the city of Copenhagen’s ability to engage in publicprivate partnerships. Moreover, the concept of private-public partnership in general is a topic that receives quite a lot of attention in Europe, and is one where I believe there is the greatest potential for transatlantic knowledge sharing. Therefore, receiving a grant from The German Marshall Fund to visit the United States was a unique opportunity to research promoting bicycling in cities through publicprivate partnerships. Though this article is focused on examples of 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 for Danish bicycle retailers) my meetings with staff from municipalities, private businesses, and NGOs also provided valuable information for my own work. I have already put my experiences to use in Copenhagen through an increased emphasis on partnering with the business community as a part of Copenhagen’s bicycle parking program, and involving large companies in the ongoing promotion of the

Summary: 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, first 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.

From Denmark to the United States: A Bike Boss Travels Westward
by Andreas Røhl
Introduction Copenhagen is considered one of the best cities for bicycling in the world. Given the renewed worldwide interest in promoting cycling for positive impacts on health, climate, city life, and traffic congestion, my office in Copenhagen’s Bicycle Programme has received hundreds of delegations from around the world during the last couple of years. I have repeatedly visited the United States to give presentations. Though hearing the questions or observations of the visitors or hosts is always inspiring, the topic of cooperation 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 for decisions and funds, but also shaping ideas and implementing projects for the common good. This is being done in Denmark but not nearly to the same extent or with the same professionalism. I do believe that there is enormous potential in Denmark to increase cooperation between the public and the private sector to 1) further improve the conditions for cycling in Copen-

1744 R Street NW Washington, DC 20009 T 1 202 683 2650 F 1 202 265 1662 E

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Cycle Super Highways that are currently under construction in the greater Copenhagen area. It is also my goal to work with bicycle retailers in Copenhagen to implement some of the concepts mentioned below. Partly inspired by the “bicycle repair pit stop,” we are currently considering the use of mobile bike repair shops in newly developed urban areas that do not yet have permanent bike shop. A small scale pilot project of this was a success. The 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 of approximately 1.5 billion Danish Kroner per year, equaling approximately $350 million. Close to 1,000 people work in the industry. These figures can likely be at least doubled in the case of Denmark as a whole. For example, the value of the cargo bikes utilized throughout Denmark is about 500 million Danish Kroner ($120 million), the vast majority of which are produced by Danish companies. More than one-third of all those working or studying in Copenhagen choose to bike when they commute. That so many people choose to bike rather than drive or take public transit illustrates the bicycle’s cost efficiency as a mode of transportation. The bicycle’s popularity also has many other benefits for the municipality, such as in freeing tax funds from road construction to be used for other purposes, such as education. In addition, as the Danish Congestion Commission recently pointed out, as more individuals choose to cycle for short trips, more space on the road will be available for trips where trucks and cars are the only reasonable option. In November 2012, thanks to an Urban and Regional Policy Fellowship from The 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 focused on how public and private partners can work together to promote cycling in cities. I chose these cities because they represented inspiring ways of working with partnerships. Long Beach and San Diego were the first places where the concept of Bike Friendly Business Districts were implemented; San Francisco has a very strong and

Portland is a city for cycling, here a bookseller with homemade bicycle parking, incorporating book titles.

professional bicycle interest organization (San Francisco Bicycle Coalition); and staff in the city of Portland has considerable experience in using public-private partnerships to promote cycling. Finally, Boulder is the home of 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 often play in U.S. cities, first 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. Though acknowledging that conditions and the local context in Denmark are different, the following describes my experience in the United States, which I hope will inspire industry (i.e. the Danish bicycle retail sector), and inform my ongoing work in the City of Copenhagen. “More People on Bikes More Often” Portland is often highlighted as the leading cycling city in the United States. In Portland, cycling makes up 6-8 percent of the trips, among the highest in the United States. Jay Graves has 30 years experience in the bike industry and owns The Bike Gallery, a chain of seven bike shops in Portland with over 100 employees. Graves does not just operate shops, but also plays a central role in the effort to further improve cycling conditions and to give local residents the


In Focus Reports from the Urban and Regional Policy Program

Urban Current
option to cycle in Portland. This work is often done in collaboration with tourism organizations, the city, and other private, public, and NGO partners. The Bike Gallery’s partnerships take many forms. For example, Graves was the instigator and later the provider of a free mechanic service for the annual exercise bike race, “Cycle Oregon,” which has evolved into a million-dollar business. Graves also started The Community Cycling Center, Yes, there are hills in San Francisco. And yes, there is a good deal of cycling taking place, here a non-profit organization that on Market Street. Complete with pit stops for small bike repairs during weekdays. collects, renovates, and then Pit Stop on Main Street sells or donates bicycles for children and adults. It also offers community programs such In downtown San Francisco, I met Zach Stender of Huckleberry Bikes on Market Street. With several thousand bicyas summer camps and bicycle repair courses. cles passing his shop daily, Stender has sought to combine Graves spends so much of his time promoting cycling for his mission to promote cycling with his goal of attracting three major reasons. First, he cites his father, who was also more customers into the store. a bike dealer and instilled in Grave the idea of giving back Each weekday morning between 7:30 and 9:30, Huckleberry to the community that supports his shop. “You provide Bikes offers free services and small repairs in an old newsback to your community,” he said. Second, he references a paper stand a few hundred yards from the store. The service simple business reason: the more people cycle, the better allows people to more easily commute on their bikes, while for business. Third, Graves believes the community work also giving the shop an opportunity to interact with potenis returned back to him in the form of more customers. tial customers. Surveys among his customers have shown that The Bike Gallery’s active and advocacy role is the third most imporFor the mechanics, adding some air to a tire, pouring a tant reason why customers patronize Graves’ store, second little oil on a chain, or tightening a nut gives them work and only to “selection” and “location.” often leads to more business. They often discover the need for other major repairs that require a later trip to the store. The first time he spoke with local politicians, Graves dealt The initiative has been so successful and well-received by with a case of nerves. “I was scared witless,” Graves said. the community that another company now sponsors the While local leaders have not always agreed with Graves’ mechanics’ wages. stance on local policy, they still greeted him with respect and responsiveness, whether in a business or cycling In his role as a business owner, Stender also regularly context. provides input on potential municipal bike projects by commenting in the press and participating in public meetSince my visit, Jay Graves has sold his stores. ings. Additionally, he serves as an advisor to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which has over 12,000 members. In many ways, he feels a certain obligation to advocate for


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Urban Current
better cycling conditions in San Francisco because of the work of the major advocates before him. Of course, better cycling conditions also result in more cyclists, and, ultimately, more business for Stender. …And an Arcade Game in the Store Fixies, old road bikes and classic men’s and women’s bikes, are in high demand in Portland and San Francisco. However, in Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, these bike models are facing tough competition from beach cruisers. The longer and lower the frame and more luscious the colors, the better. With a thriving cycling culture, many of the trade associations that I spoke with have actively engaged in efforts to improve cycling conditions in order to attract more customers. Graham Baden, who manages Pedal Movement, an independent dealer in the Bixby Knolls shopping area, is another advocate for the improvement of cycling conditions. Baden’s strategy is to make his store a local gathering place in order to create customer loyalty and to show other small business owners that more people are choosing the bicycle as a mode of transportation. Through his work, Baden also tries to support all local goods. In the United States, the “Critical Mass” phenomenon — when protestors gather together in city streets — has a long history. Baden and the local chamber of commerce in Long Beach have created a twist to “Critical Mass” with the monthly event called “Kiddical Mass.” Once a month, local kids and their parents meet at Baden’s shop and take a bike tour through the area. Baden spends one day a month visiting local schools to promote the event, and, as a result, several hundred kids and their families participate each time. Even the local police force supports the event, making it possible for participants to cycle on secondary roads in the area. The race ends at a different community shop or café each time, giving local businesses an opportunity to attract new customers. As a result, the local chamber of commerce has finally started to appreciate the benefits that cycling conditions can have on the local economy, such as encouraging people to shop locally. And for Baden, Kiddical Mass has given children and parents a greater appetite for cycling, generating more business for his shop. “If mother and child like Kiddical Mass, they will seek out my store,” Baden said. “I even have an arcade game in the shop. I’ve failed if I do not create new cyclists.” Baden installed the game as part of his goal to make visits to the local bike dealer a weekly ritual for the local kids and their families. For instance, if a child regularly visits the bike shop to play the game, it is likely that at some point they will want a bike. Consequentially, they will want to go biking with their parents, who also need to purchase bikes, resulting in more business. At least that was Baden’s argument for having a game in the store, apart from it just being good fun. The Interest Organization My last stop was the headquarters of Bikes Belong in Boulder, Colorado, located just before the point where the prairie ends and the Rocky Mountains begin. Bikes Belong is an interest group financed by the U.S. bicycle industry, seeking to promote cycling in the United States by making more resources available, rather than fiercely competing for the small number of resources that currently exists. Bikes Belong works as a non-partisan organization, providing information to policymakers locally and nationally for the benefit of cycling. They lobby for cycling in Washington, DC, co-financing innovative bike projects, and organizing study tours for politicians and officials in “best practice countries,” such as Denmark and the Netherlands. In the United States, cycling has experienced major changes

Pedal Movement, Long Beach. Customers looking for a nononsense Beach Cruiser


In Focus Reports from the Urban and Regional Policy Program

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Three Dealer Initiatives that Worked in the United States • Pit stop with free small repairs during morning rush hour in front of the store. Effective and inexpensive advertising tool for identifying needs. • “Kiddical Mass”: Monthly bike ride for children and parents in cooperation with the police and the local chamber of commerce. Creates more spending and neighborhood loyalty to the local bike shop • “Community cycling center” with a focus on bike repair as a tool to engage less resourceful children and youth. Helps the local community, creates positive publicity for the store behind it, and strengthens the bicycle culture. in recent years. While New York City and Portland are often cited for their progressive cycling initiatives, other cities like Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to build 200 km of cycle paths annually, are among the many examples of places where cycling is receiving increased attention. To increase its impact, the Bikes Belong awards grants to those cities that focus on designing innovative cycling paths. Home Again My experience focused on bike initiatives in the United States, but had I been given the opportunity to travel around Denmark and study bike shops, I would have similarly learned about many of the innovative initiatives to promote cycling and the multitude of small and large Danish cities now investing in improvements for cycling. My tour of the United States proved to me that bicycle dealers know the market, have a commercial approach and are important sources of local employment. Ultimately, this proves that bike dealers are important community partners for cities, and can also have a positive impact on the process of making their cities more bicycle friendly.
About the Author
Andreas Røhl is head of the Bicycle Program for the City of Copenhagen. Among other responsibilities, he develops strategies for the improvement of cycling conditions in Copenhagen and develops relationships with companies that have an interest in Copenhagen’s cycling infrastructure. In November 2012, Røhl completed a study tour in the western United States as an urban and regional policy fellow of the German Marshall Fund. Informed by his experience abroad, the following is a slightly altered version of an article that was also published in the July 2013 edition of the Danish bicycle retailers magazine CYKELbranchen.

About The Urban and Regional Policy Program
GMF’s Urban and Regional Policy Program facilitates a sustainable network of globally aware and locally engaged leaders by promoting the transatlantic exchange of knowledge and the incubation of innovative solutions for current urban and regional challenges.

About GMF
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Tunis. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.


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