Local businesses reach out to cyclist consumers

Local businesses reach out to cyclist consumers

By Derrick Perkins (File photo)

Bicycling advocates have long argued that cyclists benefit local businesses and a few are beginning to see it their way, rolling out the red carpet for potential pedal-powered customers.

A joint venture between City Hall’s Local Motion initiative and the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the newly launched bike-friendly business program helps local firms advertise accommodations for cyclists, from parking to free water bottle refills. About a dozen businesses have joined so far, said Scott Anderson, an advisory committee member who helped organize the campaign.

“There’s a national version of this that’s more focused on being able to bike to work and it’s focused on [things like] having showers,” he said. “We’re really looking at Del Ray and Old Town, specifically, as more retail focused. [Our] tweak was that we made it kind of more customer focused than employee focused.”

Interested businesses can register for the program — which involves filling out a short form that requires a list of what amenities they offer cyclists — at the Local Motion website. In return, qualified shops receive a sticker proclaiming their bicycle-friendly attitude for display in a store window.

Several of Del Ray’s popular eateries, like St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, The Dairy Godmother and Pork Barrel BBQ, are participating, as is The Waterfront Market, restaurateur Jody Manor’s latest Old Town venture. Del Ray shops dominate the list at the moment, which Anderson chalks up to a presentation organizers made before the neighborhood’s business association.

Because his committee has a limited budget, they’re banking on the program expanding by word of mouth, he said.

“We’re kind of hoping it just grows organically. … In any neighborhood that there is some business that has this [sign], someone will walk in and see it and say, ‘Hey, where did you get that?’” Anderson said. “There’s no need to have a budget to promote it — it’s just a voluntary thing. It’s a free marketing program for any business that wants to participate.”

And as it grows, Anderson hopes it will lead to better relations between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists, particularly after the acrimonious King Street bike lane debate earlier this year. That controversy, which arose after city transit officials opted to replace a short stretch of on-street parking spots with bike lanes, left both sides with hard feelings.

“Generally speaking, it’s just meant to be a signpost for people: ‘Hey, you’re on a bike, you can stay here,’ Anderson added. “That’s one of the things that I think will be helpful [in getting us to the point] when we become accepted as just part of the city. When we had this big row about King Street, people were referring to us as out of town agitators. OK, we’re agitators, but we live here.”