NYC businesses welcome bike riders
At The Candy Rush in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, bicyclists stop by for doughnuts and Gummy Bears. On the Lower East Side of Manhattan, they pop into Luca Lounge for beers. At Brooklyn Roasting Company, they pick up espresso shots.
These businesses are among hundreds of shops, cafes and bars trying to lure cyclists with discounts and other incentives -- a trend driven by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration's efforts to make New York the East Coast biking capital.
"Many businesses understand that bicyclists means business," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a group that tracks bike-friendly businesses. He predicts their ranks will grow in the months ahead from 250 to 1,000.
Despite resistance in some neighborhoods, the Bloomberg administration over the past decade has expanded the city's bike lanes by about 350 miles, added curbside racks to park the two-wheelers and recently introduced a bike-sharing program.
Merchants say they are trying to capitalize on bicycling's popularity.
Tina Roth Eisenberg, 38, a cyclist who frequents the shop, said the businesses "want to tap into the hipster crowd and biking community."
A popular coffee stop for cyclists who commute over the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges for work, Brooklyn Roasting introduced a special blend this month called "bespoke." The company's roaster doubles as a bike mechanic.
Kevin Phillip, who owns The Candy Rush with his wife, Garnett, said the 10 percent discount they give riders is to attract potential customers who ride along Franklin Avenue and to encourage people to ditch their cars.
"As long as we get people in the shop, it's good for business," he said, adding they are pushing the city's Department of Transportation to convert a car parking space into bike parking with racks.
Jason Reposa, 33, who bikes daily from his Crown Heights home to his advertising agency in DUMBO, understands why businesses are trying to lure cyclists, explaining: "There is a lot of word-of-mouth in the biking community" and "if someone is spending $1,200 for a bike, they don't mind paying $3 for coffee or candy."
With bars, the breaks get tricky. A city Health Department study of cycling fatalities from 1996-2005 found that 21 percent of cyclists who died had alcohol in their system within three hours of the accident. The statistics make cycling advocates reluctant to plug bike-welcoming bars, but several giving breaks said they carefully monitor cyclists' liquor intake.
"We don't let anyone come in drunk or leave drunk, especially on a bicycle. We'd take their bike [lock] key away from them, but we've never had to do that," said Vito DiTomaso, co-owner of Luca Lounge and Luca Bar on the Lower East Side, which both offer two-for-one drink specials for those who arrive with bike helmet in hand.
The Red Lantern in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the only bike shop in the city that serves alcohol, provides indoor bike parking for customers who drink too much to ride home. The liquor license was a way to give cyclists a hangout of sorts, said owner Brian Gluck.
"It's a nice two-for-one deal -- bike repair and a drink," Gluck said.
Transportation Alternatives highlights businesses that offer discounts, have ample bike racks, are petitioning for bike lanes or train their delivery people to observe bike rules. The group's list of 250 bike-friendly places includes florists, barber shops, boutiques, laundries and pharmacies.
Though they do some door-to-door outreach to businesses, White's team relies on recommendations from cyclists for places to recognize.
"Hopefully, eventually all New York places will be bike-friendly," he said.Find Transportation Alternatives' list of bike-friendly businesses at http://transalt.org/ourwork/bike/business/directory