Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Talky, talky, talky

I just posted all of this on a forum I frequent, http://www.sdbikecommuter.com/. I'll repost here becuase its a blowhard rant, and I'm a blowhard.

This is a bit long winded. . .It seems to me that private business is the driving force behind nearly every major change in our culture. It would be really great to see private businesses realize the benefits of embracing cycling, and promote it. Henry’s Market (on Park Blvd, near El Cajon, University Heights) is less than a mile from my house. Whenever I need to pick something up I ride over there and get it. It takes me less time to hop on my bike, ride over, and lock up then it would to drive and have to find parking.Henry’s is always crowded. You always have to wait for a register. And the vast majority of people shopping there are picking up one, or maybe two, bags of groceries. It isn’t the kind of place where housewife’s shop for families of seven. The parking lot is always full, to the point where there are cars driving around looking for spots to park. Yet the bike rack is almost always empty. There maybe a beach cruiser or two locked to the elementary school-style rack. I don’t get it. Of all the businesses in San Diego, I would think that Henry’s would/should attract the kind of people who would be very open to cycling as a real means of transport. All of its customers are choosing to spend more on groceries that are fresh, local, and organic. Yet they all drive their cars a few blocks to buy these groceries. I don’t know the exact details, but I can’t imagine that a very large percentage of Henry’s sales come from people who live more than 3 miles away. These people live close to the store. The weather is perfect. They are health and earth minded people. But they drive to the market.So what can be done to change this? I think that Henry’s could do a lot! They could start by putting in much better bike racks. They could offer a discount to customers who ride bicycles (they already give a five cent discount for people who bring their own bags). This has been a long and probably boring rant. I guess my point is, or my question is, how do we get businesses like Henry’s to realize that promoting cycling is in their best interest? Are there some other business that might be open to this kind of “intervention”? To really change things we need big businesses not directly associated with cycling to start beating the drum.
Another thought just came to me. Think back 4 or 5 years. How many people brought their own sacks to the grocery store? I think very few. Then what happened? Did the government make laws against plastic bags? (they did in a few places, but not here). The grocery stores started promoting re-usable bags. They sold them right by the register (made it convenient). They offered discounts for users (incentivized). And environmental organizations raised the issue and promoted re-useable bags as an environmentally responsible behavior (social pressure). Now how many people re-use bags? Lots more, right? I don’t have real numbers, but there has been a significant change. Now there is discussion of legislation banning plastic sacks. Legislation follows social action in most cases. How can we apply this model to the use of bicycles?

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