A Bicycle Garden grows on Sherbrook Bike shop pop-up hopes to get city rolling on two wheels
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/08/2020 (1008 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This spring, with some freedoms put on hold, many people in Winnipeg found — or rediscovered — the freedom of riding a bicycle.
Vendors, manufacturers and mechanics could hardly keep up with the reinvigorated interest as the global supply chain was interrupted and demand outpaced supply. “It’s like selling Coca Cola and you’ve run out of Coke,” Lifesport owner Walter Jozwiak told the Free Press in May.
Under those circumstances, Leigh Anne Parry and Anders Swanson got their wheels turning on a new idea, a pop-up bike shop called the Bicycle Garden, where they could peddle Dutch-built pedals to riders young and old. The shop opened last week on the main floor of the Sherbrook Flats building (267 Sherbrook St.).
“We’d heard during the pandemic there was a shortage of bikes (particularly women’s bikes),” said Parry, who along with Swanson is co-founder of the Plain Bicycle Project. “And we had a source to get them in.”
The project is a social enterprise that brings bicycles from the Netherlands, where they’re more popular than the Toyota Camry, to Winnipeg. The bikes are Dutch-style, featuring mudguards, skirt guards, and upright seating, which makes them practical for daily use regardless of athletic ability or the clothes you’re wearing.
“It’s like you’re sitting in an armchair, floating in the clouds,” said Swanson, the director of the Winnipeg Trails Association, whose summer office is now in the shop.
While the pop-up is selling leftover stock from previous shipments, it also features six pallets worth of bicycles and accessories — child seats, bells, lights, bags, baskets — that arrived from the Netherlands earlier this summer; another order is already being planned for later this week. The bikes range in cost from $350 (used) to over $1,000.
Cycling had been rising in popularity in Winnipeg long before the pandemic: a 2018 poll conducted by Probe Research found over one fifth of respondents cycled weekly. While data related to the COVID-19 era is not yet available, Swanson said anecdotal evidence shows the mode of transportation has become an increasingly attractive option for many as habits changed during the pandemic.
In April, when the city designated certain stretches for active transportation and restricted vehicle use, roadways were filled with cyclists, rollerbladers, or pedestrians. Elsewhere, vehicular traffic fell, leading to a minor reclamation of pavement by cyclists.
“When the roads were empty, people were falling in love with (cycling),” Swanson said.
Adding to the demand have been changes to the ways residents exercise. While gyms are open, many are struggling to regain members, and recreational sports, though ongoing, are dealing with similar reluctance. As well, bike ownership and maintenance is considerably cheaper than car ownership — a key consideration during a time of economic instability. As the school year nears, parents are also looking for active options for their kids to get to and from class, Swanson said.
So far, the response from the community has been strong: the Bicycle Garden’s most recent harvest is nearly half-picked.
At other shops around the city, demand remains high, however supply continues to be an issue. “The biggest thing for us is that when a customer walks in the door, we’ll likely have a bike for them, but options are still limited,” said Mac Wood, the assistant sales manager at Woodcock Cycle. “In a typical spring or summer, that doesn’t happen.”
“It’s certainly more difficult to forecast availability to our customers,” he said. “We, as an industry, are as much at the mercy of restrictions as any other.”
The pop-up shop — which could go until October or beyond — is the commercial tenant on the main floor of the Sherbrook Flats.
“When (the pop-up) came to us with a proposal, I was very excited,” said Sotirios Kotoulas, the building’s designer and part-owner. “For us, the most important thing is to activate the street,” he added. “It takes time to transform a streetscape or find the right fit, but obviously a bicycle shop is an amazing fit.”
Outside the shop, there are a few tables and chairs, meant to evoke the bikes’ Dutch vibe. Repairs are also being offered on the boulevard, which borders an unprotected bike lane on Sherbrook. Since opening, Parry said the interest from the public has been obvious.
“Day one, we had a lineup outside mostly of older people looking to get around independently,” she said. “There are a lot of people walking and biking by, which is really good for us.”
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.