Jolie NeSmith, PikeRide executive director, beamed as nearly 30 volunteers worked on assembling 208 bright purple, high-tech bikes May 23.
“It’s great to see such wide support from the community to help us launch bike sharing,” NeSmith said. “Bike share is a healthy, active form of transportation, and so many community members and employers have told us they’re eager to help PikeRide get rolling.”
When PikeRide launches in June, riders will be able to use credit cards or member cards to check out bikes for short rides around town. The bikes will be available at 26 hubs throughout the Legacy Loop, a geofenced area within which the bikes will be housed. The bikes feature GPS tracking and touchscreens that will provide directions for riders.
PikeRide, the city’s first bike sharing program, is an initiative of Downtown Ventures, the charitable arm of the Downtown Partnership.
NeSmith isn’t sure just yet about the exact rollout date for the system, but it will be a highlight of Bike Month.
Mayor John Suthers and his wife, Janet, will lead a community bike ride Saturday, June 2, to kick off Bike Month. The ride, organized through a partnership with Bike Colorado Springs, starts at 8:15 a.m. at the Bon Shopping Center, 2300 N. Wahsatch Ave., and finishes at the Pikes Peak Market, 315 E. Pikes Peak Ave.
Other highlights will be the 24th Annual Starlight Spectacular, an evening ride through Garden of the Gods Park on June 16; and the 25th Annual Bike to Work Day and Corporate Challenge on June 27.
Bike to Work Day encourages employees to commute to their jobs. Participants will enjoy breakfast at some two dozen stations along the city’s bike trail network.
Nearly 30 businesses have already signed up for the Corporate Challenge, a friendly competition among local employers to recruit the most participants for Bike to Work Day. Prizes will be awarded in four categories based on business size.
In much of the United States, May is National Bike Month. But because of Colorado’s mountainous terrain and unpredictable spring weather, the Colorado Legislature proclaimed June as Colorado Bike Month and the fourth Wednesday of June as Bike to Work Day.
The effect of Bike Month on bike businesses is hard to quantify, but “it’s an important part of this community,” said John Crandall, owner of Old Town Bike Shop at 426 S. Tejon St.
Crandall will be providing mechanical support for the Starlight Spectacular and will help out in Acacia Park on Bike to Work Day.
Crandall said Colorado Springs is fortunate to have plenty of bike stores that cooperate with one another.
“Most of the shops here do not consider other shops enemies, but friendly competitors,” Crandall said. “It’s a really neat thing that’s not true for every city.”
For example, Crandall said, both Old Town and Ted’s Bicycles sell Giant bikes, among other brands.
“If I don’t have a part [for a Giant bike] and he does, I would just send a customer over there, and he does the same,” Crandall said. “It’s not unusual; it happens several times a summer. There’s the same kind of spirit in other shops in town. Almost every shop at one time or another has either helped us out or we’ve helped them out.”
In general, “business has been steadily up until the last few years,” Crandall said. For the past three years, “it has decreased some.”
Online sales of bicycles and equipment are affecting bike shops, Crandall said. In addition, bikes are made so well these days that they don’t have to be replaced.
“Millennials and GenXers have not embraced cycling as much as the Baby Boomers have,” Crandall said. “I don’t know that they are cycling any less, but they are not in as much of a position to buy new bikes.”
Nevertheless, Crandall said he believes “the concept of bikes as transportation is succeeding.”
The city’s promotion of cycling with programs such as PikeRide, dedicated bike lanes and Bike to Work Day could inspire visitors and locals to do more riding and encourage bike commuting, Crandall said.
“The elements are in place. I think we’ll see more people using bikes as their primary form of transportation,” said Crandall, who added that he’s been commuting by bike for more than 40 years. “I’d like to think we’re reaching a tipping point.”
Jake Eyermann, general manager of Mountain Equipment Recyclers, said the store is partnering with Kids on Bikes’ Pedal Station to provide refreshments outside the store at 1024 S. Tejon St. on Bike to Work Day.
“Overall, I would say at the moment it seems to be a healthy industry,” Eyermann said. “There’s some good local energy. Kate Brady [Colorado Springs’ bike coordinator] has done a great job creating the infrastructure for people to use bikes for transportation. With that comes the need for mountain, road and commuter bikes.”
Kids on Bikes, an MER partner, offers used and reconditioned bikes for sale at the store.
“Where we fit into the ecosystem is that we’re a great stop for the first-time bike commuter,” Eyermann said. “We have over 75 bikes on the floor right now. Folks can come in here and find a bike inexpensively.”
With the growing local bike infrastructure, Eyermann thinks that will encourage more people to ride bikes and help them find their local bike shops.
The PikeRide program “is really exciting, something I feel is a necessity for a town our size,” he said. Along with the other programs the city is putting into place, it will “continue to add visibility and grow our industry,” he said. “We run on small margins. Anything that gets more bikes on the road is definitely going to help.”
Eyermann said he thinks most bike shops run on small margins when it comes to bike sales.
“Folks coming in to get their bikes serviced and buy accessories, that’s where most shops tend to make more of their money,” he said.
Torie Giffin, owner of the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort at 2 El Paso Blvd., said she thinks Colorado Springs is poised to become a top city for biking.
“The best thing about Bike Month is getting people to try riding to work,” Giffin said. “It’s a great way to start your day. With the Corporate Challenge, the hope is that if your friends and your company are doing it, you might try it and like it, and you may be encouraged to try a local bike group.”
Giffin said the lodge will be a Bike to Work breakfast stop offering mini waffles with bananas and strawberries, as well as a free beer token so commuters can have a brew on their way home after work.
“We are hosting community rides all month at 6 p.m. Tuesday nights and having happy hour prices until we close,” she said.
The lodge has been successful since it reopened as a bike resort June 7, 2016.
“As soon as the word started getting out, people came from all over the world,” Giffin said. Recent guests have included the Canadian Women’s Cycling Team and participants in a training ride for the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride across America.
Giffin connects guests with local biking groups that sponsor rides every day of the week.
“Seeing the direction our city was going, I don’t think I was a fool to start a business catering to biking,” Giffin said. “My research showed bike tourists stay longer and spend more money. It’s great for the community.”
Giffin said she’s heard some people look at the new bike lanes as an inconvenience, but “in the long run, they’re going to be thankful for them.
“We’re excited for Bike Month,” she said. “It gives people an incentive to try it. They’re probably going to find out it’s fun and healthy.”
Find more information about Bike Month activities at bikecoloradosprings.org/calendar.
Disclosure: The Colorado Springs Business Journal and its sister publication, the Colorado Springs Independent, are sponsors of the PikeRide program. The CSBJ is a sponsor of the Corporate Challenge.