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Cyclists avoid rising gas prices

By P.A. Sévigny, The Suburban

Photo by Martin Chamberland, The Suburban

Bikes have become as much an urban transport vehicle as a car or the subway, says David Bowman, president of OGC (Outdoor Gear Canada).

Some said they used their bikes because it’s healthy and it helps keep you in shape. Others said they used them because it’s “green” and it’s good for the environment.
But now they all use their bikes because they’re sick and tired of what it costs to drive a car.
Faced with the rising price of gas, people are beginning to vote with their feet and bicycle stores are reporting record sales.
Not only are commuters beginning to consider their bike as a valid and useful means of urban transportation but the city is spending millions of dollars to adapt its road infrastructure to the growing numbers of cyclists who use the streets daily.

“Bikes are no longer a toy,” says David Bowman, president of OGC (Outdoor Gear Canada), one of Quebec’s more successful bicycle manufacturers.
“The technology has changed, the cities are adapting their infrastructure and bikes have become as much an urban transport vehicle as a car or the subway.”

Bowman knows what’s driving the province’s new bicycle business.
“It’s the price of gas,” he said. “A lot of people talk about the environment and others talk about the health benefits but in the end, it all comes down to the price of gas.”

In 1978, Bowman opened his business as a distributor of high-end bike accessories.
By 2001, he knew his market and knew it was time to start making his own bikes.
From an original line of four models, he now builds and sells 41 different models of mid to high-end bikes.
While the Opus bike line is a Canadian design, the parts are manufactured in China and the bikes are assembled in St. Laurent and sold from coast to coast.
“Every bike is a combination of durability, strength and speed,” he said. “The lighter the bike, the more it will cost. In the bike business, less really does mean more.”
His entry level bikes can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,000 for a basic model. The price of a high end model can be daunting.
“Actually, a lot of people have at least two bikes,” says Patrick Fisch, an Amherst Street bike dealer who has been in business for the past 12 years.
“Business is good, very good,” says Fisch, who sells a selection that stretches from high-end road bikes to the new mid-range urban bikes that suit Montreal’s unique road and weather conditions.
While Fisch also said soaring fuel prices have a direct influence on his sales, he also said the city’s ubiquitous bike thieves are keeping more than a few second-hand stores on their feet.
“Serious bike people buy a good unit and then they’ll buy a cheap, used bike for their everyday use,” he says.
“If their bike is bound to get stolen, they don’t mind losing a ‘beater’ as much as they mind losing their good bike.”
Fisch says he noticed a distinct shift when he began to see working professionals workers use their bikes to get to the office.
Many of his clients work downtown and they all say their bike is faster than a car and often cheaper than public transportation.
Bike retailer François Sylvestre manages the Sylvestre family business at its new location on Park Avenue in Montreal’s Mile-End district.
“It’s all about health, the environment and the price of gas,” says Sylvestre.
With gas at $1.50 per liter and due for another hike, Sylvestre said it’s not long before people begin to whip out the plastic to buy a decent entry-level bike.
Even as the market for bikes is fragmenting into smaller, more highly defined segments, Sylvestre said there’s plenty of action for everybody.
While urban bikes, a hybrid between a mountain and a road, are still the store’s big seller, Sylvestre said the new collapsible bikes are becoming a popular item.
“They’re light and people can store them in the trunk of their car,” he said.
“Instead of driving into the city, they park their car in the suburbs and take their bike on the train or on the metro into the city.”
The construction of the new bike path along De Maisonneuve Blvd. was a seminal event for Montreal cyclists.
The path follows the city’s east-west axis and passes by three universities, two major libraries and two of the province’s larger CEGEPs.
Thousands of students use the bike path every day and bike stands are becoming a priority for the downtown core.
While the city is spending millions to accommodate its cyclists, cyclists say the private sector still doesn’t get it.
West Island resident Patricia Olinik recently complained to The Suburban that there are very few bike stands outside area malls and cyclists must chain their bicycles to a nearby tree or leave it outside the store and simply hope for the best.

All the more reason to have a “beater.”

1 comment:

Montreal Cyclist said...

Don't forget that when you ride your bike to work, not only are you saving gas, the environment and helping keep yourself in shape, but there is an extra bonus, the city of Montreal provides you with parking. Those hungry parking meters that keep motorist running out to feed them make great bike stands and the new ones now have bike locking rings on them woohoo. I get a little satisfaction whenever I use one and I see the owner of a car waiting for me to finish locking my up my bike so they can feed the meter.