Biking the “B”

Andy and ESBC.jpg
Andy and other East Side Bike Club members with “brunch” on her cargo bike

It’s possible to mix bikes and economics.  In Detroit, a couple of fine young ladies, Kloni Thorpe and Brandi Keeler wanted to boost bike culture and give local restaurants a financial shot in the arm.  So they do “Bike and Brunch.”  Now it’s one of Detroit’s most popular monthly events.  Some say the sincerest form of flattery is imitation.  So let’s Bike the “B” like Detroiters Pedal the “D.”  Sure, we have Slow Roll on Mondays, the East Side Bike Club on Saturdays, Jes Roll on Wednesdays, why not something on Sundays?  I’ll be looking for lunchtime suggestions and I’d like to keep it to places that could really use the business.  Let’s get out there and publicize the diamonds in the rough in Buffalo.  Let’s show mom and pop our love.

Bike community doesn’t just exist in Buffalo.  The bike messenger community is international.  Basically, being a bike messenger, I could drop into almost any city in the world and at least have a low bar to entry into that world.  I’d show up and other messengers I’d never met, would offer me a beer, a conversation and camaraderie.  Depending on how long I was in town, they might even offer a place to stay.  All because I was a fellow messenger.  There are a bunch of places really close to Buffalo that have super cool bike cultures and events.  Why don’t we, as the Buffalo roam, go and check out other bike communities?  There is Neocycle in Cleveland, Slow Roll Detroit, Bike Month in Toronto and many, many more things happening all over the state and within an easy drive/bus ride of here.

Several things could happen when you sample someone else’s bike culture.  1.  You’ll help put Buffalo on the cycling map.  2.  You’ll see unbelievably cool stuff you never dreamed was possible and you’ll want to bring it here.  3.  You’ll get appreciation from the folks your meeting, people LOVE bragging about where they’re from and if you let them, they’ll love you for it.

When I travelled the country as a bike messenger in the 90’s, there really was no internet for the masses.  Couriers didn’t know there were couriers in other cities besides NYC.  When I arrived in a town there was this wave of curiosity that surrounded me because I was a mythical beast, a messenger from another city.  I widened the collective perception of the messenger world, just by showing up.  The important thing is in showing up, in bucking the tendency to do all your socializing on the internet, you get a real feel for people and build true lasting connections that are so much stronger than the digital ones.

When you go to Neocycle in Cleveland, your desire to institute that kind of fun here in Buffalo actually helps GObike make it happen.  Everyone who talks about bikes, is a force multiplier.  By talking about bikes and telling your bike stories, you are helping GObike make the case for everything they do.

These days it’s difficult to gauge where the economy is heading, but it is possible for cities with good bike infrastructure and a bike culture will have softer landings in the case of budget reductions and possible recessions.  The obvious indicator is how quickly big cities like NYC and San Francisco bounced back from the Great Recession.  By 2008, both cities had a great deal of existing bike infrastructure and had made great gains in their respective bike communities in the decades preceding.  Bikes didn’t save their economies, but they were certainly one of the variables that led to those cities being attractive to Millennials who work in tech and creative industries.  Where Millennials go, creativity and economic growth follow.

When business establishments are more easily accessible by bike, they get more business (Bloor St).  It doesn’t take much math to figure out why Millennials, graduating with huge college debt immediately eschewed car ownership and started moving into inner cities in droves.  They wanted to be close enough to work and fun and cycling made that equation possible.

As the federal budget tightens, eventually the fiscal flow from municipal spigots will slow to a drip.  Let’s get fit riding our bikes, patronize local mom and pop businesses and keep that money circulating in our local economy.  While we’re having fun riding our bikes and stuffing our faces we will be a living breathing example of how bikes can give the boost to the economy in good times, and maybe protect it in hard times.

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