Lotus Pedal bicycle shop blooms in Old Town

Lotus Pedal bicycle shop blooms in Old Town

By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)

When shopkeeper Amanda Carter was approached about opening Lotus Pedal, the first women-oriented bicycle shop in Old Town, she knew immediately that she wanted it to be welcoming to female bicyclists and make them feel like they were stepping into a comfortable environment.

Too often, she said, spare parts and gears appear to dominate the shelves of bicycle shops, with oil streaks from maintenance intimidating women as they walk in. Instead, Carter wanted the new store at 119 N. Washington St. to feel more like a chocolate shop, somewhere people feel welcome.

And with the layout of Lotus Pedal, which opened this month and is owned by D.C.-based BicycleSPACE, Carter feels she has done just that.

“One of the things that annoys me the most when I go into certain bike shops is all the bikes are crammed together — you can’t see them — or they’re all hanging on the wall and all you can see are handlebars and seats,” she said. “I wanted it to be where you walk in and you can actually see the bikes. Something else I did was every bike has a handwritten summary. A lot of it is based on what the specifications are from the manufacturer, but just an overall explanation.”

In that vein, Lotus Pedal is spacious, with only a few bikes hanging on the wall and plenty of space between those on the floor displays for easy inspection by customers. And while cycling has made significant strides towards being more female-friendly in recent years, Carter said the store can help those efforts further.

“There are a lot of shops around here that are women-friendly, female-focused, so we felt like this would be something that would be workable in this community,” she said. “In general, a lot of women don’t feel comfortable. They say, if you do surveys, going into a bike shop in general, they don’t feel like they’re welcome; they feel like they’re talked down to, and so we thought we would just try something a little different.

“The surprising thing is that I have a lot of men who come in here and love this shop. I would say half my customers are men.”

The Alexandria Spokeswomen formed last year to make cycling more accessible to women in the Port City. Group member Andrea Hamre said Lotus Pedal’s selection and staffing can make a big difference in encouraging more women to hit the streets on two wheels.

“In the past, across sports, women have really struggled with this ‘pink it and shrink it’ approach, where they take the unisex version, which typically has male geometry and is shrunk and maybe given a different color and called a women’s bike,” Hamre said. “Thankfully, we’ve seen a lot of manufacturers start to really be more thoughtful about the design of their products. “In terms of the experience, walking into a shop and having more women on staff makes a huge difference. I think just being able to talk with staff who are women about the issues that you’re having, those are the kind of things that can make a shop more welcoming.”

In addition to having bikes and other accessories available for purchase, Lotus Pedal intends to host community cycling events as well as workshops on bike maintenance and seminars related to healthy living. Having already begun a yoga program to aid cyclists, Carter said she is excited to get off the ground.

“You don’t just buy a bike. We want you to be on your bike, we want you to ride safely, we want you to feel comfortable on your bike, we want you to know there are other cyclists out there that you can ride with,” she said. “Anything that’s cycling related in the community, we just let the individual know that it’s a greater community that you’re getting involved in. The shop in D.C., we have six rides every weekend. That’s something that has built up over the last couple of years, but definitely that’s something we would like to do.”

And in the future, the Alexandria Spokeswomen hope to collaborate with Lotus Pedal in a variety of ways, especially as groups like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Black Women Bike already look to forge partnerships with the store.

“The Spokeswomen, we are really oriented towards encouraging women in the city to enjoy bicycling together. It’s focused on fun and encouragement and community building,” Hamre said. “As soon as the shop was announced, we were excited to reach out to them. We are thrilled about the possibilities of collaborating and are really excited to welcome them to the suite of bike shops in the city, but we know they offer something really special for women in the community.”