Silicon Valley’s First “Bike to Shop Day” Set for May 17

Bike Trailer at Trader Joes
It’s rare for cities in Silicon Valley to accommodate cycling shoppers with adequate parking. Photo: Janet Lafleur

Planning to build on the wave of enthusiasm for bike commuting generated each May by Bike to Work Day, transportation and health advocates in Silicon Valley are promoting a spin-off called Bike to Shop Day on Saturday, May 17, to encourage people to shop by bike at local businesses.

Retail businesses offering discounts to bicycling customers are shown on a smartphone-friendly map on the event’s website. organizers expect many more to sign up in the three weeks remaining before the event. Any retail business located in San Mateo County or Santa Clara County that can offer some type of discount to customers who arrive by bicycle is eligible to participate. Shoppers are encouraged to upload photos of their bikes in action — carrying groceries or other items — to win gift certificates and other prizes.

“For the past 20 years, Bike to Work Day has achieved huge success motivating people to hop on bikes for their work commutes, including me,” said bicycle lifestyle blogger Janet Lafleur, who created Bike to Shop Day in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC). “Now it’s time to do the same for their shopping and errand trips that are shorter and easier for most people than commuting to work.”

Lafleur, a marketing professional who writes two urban cycling blogs, Bike Fun and One Woman, Many Bicycles, called for a National Bike to Shop Day last month to promote shopping by bicycle. She came up with the idea after it became clear that Mountain View was simply disregarding the need to improve access and parking for bicycles as part of expansion plans for the San Antonio Shopping Center.

“I can’t see people biking to shop here,” said a planning commissioner at a city meeting on the project. “Shopping is all about driving your SUV to the store and filling it up.”

Bike to Shop Day Participating Merchants Map
A Google Map created for Bike to Shop Day shows where bicycling shoppers can get discounts at local businesses and find the nearest bike parking. Image: Bike to Shop Day Silicon Valley

But national transportation surveys show that more people use bicycles for shopping, recreation, and visiting friends than for commuting to work. In San Francisco, five times as many residents ride a bicycle at least once per week for non-commute trips than for commuting. Since residents have more and closer choices for where to shop than where they work, bicycling is usually a viable option for shopping even when bike commuting isn’t.

Organizers are also promoting the economic benefits of investing in infrastructure that attracts customers who prefer to shop by bicycle — a market segment that has grown as more residents are relying on bicycling for transportation in Silicon Valley, where expensive housing leaves little money for families to spend on cars, and busy work schedules leave little time for exercise.

“We’re delighted to support this event, to show our local businesses that it helps the bottom line when customers can easily reach them by bike,” said SVBC Executive Director Corinne Winter.

By providing participating merchants with some potential new customers who bicycle instead of drive to their stores, advocates hope to both reduce demand for car parking and increase support for  policies that make bicycling for shopping trips practical, such as adequate bicycle parking and quality bike lanes on streets leading to the many downtown business districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

“When local merchants can see that a large part of their customer base arrives by bicycle, they’re more likely to support continued improvements that will attract even more bicycling customers,” said Adina Levin, in charge of strategy and media promotions for Bike to Shop Day.

At Coupa Cafe's request, one car parking space in front of their 528 Ramona Street location in downtown Palo Alto was replaced with a bike corral that holds up to ten bikes. Photo: Andrew Boone
At Coupa Cafe’s request, one car parking space in front of their 528 Ramona Street location in downtown Palo Alto was replaced with a bike corral that holds up to ten bikes. Photo: Andrew Boone

Projects that convert travel lanes or car parking to bike lanes or bike parking corrals can shift some car trips to bike trips, which benefits local businesses in two ways. Customers who rely on bicycles for transportation tend to make more frequent shopping trips and spend more money in aggregate than driving customers, and since bike parking is more efficient than car parking, the same amount of space can accommodate more customers.

“Bike shoppers are great for local business,” said Lafleur. “We buy from businesses that are closer to home, shop more frequently, and do less traveling around.”

Bike to Shop Day organizers are still looking for volunteers to help recruit more businesses to participate, and to lead group bike rides to popular shopping destinations on May 17.


Silicon Valley Bike Advocacy Summit 2011

From SVBC: San Mateo schedule San Jose schedule Speakers Registration Silicon Valley and the Peninsula will become bicycle advocacy epicenters as SVBC hosts the first-ever Silicon Valley Bike Advocacy Summit. Professional advocates, politicians, public agency employees, industry representatives, public health officials, and interested community members are invited to participate in a community event focused on […]

Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange Workday

From SVBC The Bicycle Exchange is back and better than ever in 2011. Come join our group of talented regulars to learn more about bike repair while making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children. Volunteers are the life essence of the bicycle exchange. We’d like to share the joys of bike repair with […]

Silicon Valley Bike Advocacy Summit 2012

From The second annual Silicon Valley Bike Advocacy Summit will be held on April 17, from 2:00 to 8:00 pm, in the Cultural Hall of the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto. Stanford Hospital and Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will co-host this event, which will both inspire advocates of cycling and walking and provide […]

Silicon Valley Bike Summit

From the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition: The Silicon Valley Bike Summit is the region’s largest gathering of active transportation leaders and organizers from government, law enforcement, non-profit, and the public. This year’s Summit includes presentations and interactive panels that explore how San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties are addressing safety for people who bike and how […]

In Silicon Valley, an Emerging Bike Movement

Editor’s note: This story marks the return of former Streetsblog San Francisco editor Bryan Goebel, who will be contributing occasional pieces.   Bicycle advocacy can be an especially daunting challenge in the South Bay and the Peninsula, where car-centric policies and culture rule the day. At this week’s Silicon Valley Bike Advocacy Summit the focus was […]