Mitch Marrison, PeopleForBikes retail program coordinator
In almost any town or city, bike shops are the hub of the bicycling community. They are the hub of the PeopleForBikes community, too. We have more than 1,000 retailer members spreading the word about PeopleForBikes, bringing new riders into the movement and collecting donations to help fund our Community Grants program.
Each month we showcase one of our retailer members who is going above and beyond to help improve bicycling in their own community. Last month we turned our blog over to our friends and recent retailer contest winners at Bikes & Moore in Hopkinsville, KY. This month, we spoke with The Bike Lane in Reston and Springfield, VA. Co-owner Anne Mader filled us in on how they’ve helped grow their local youth bicycling league and how their customers reacted when they needed to move store locations.
PFB: Tell us about the history of The Bike Lane
Anne: Todd and I opened The Bike Lane in 2001. We met three years earlier working in another local shop. Over those three years, we fell in love, got married and decided to open our own shop. Todd’s background is in accounting and mine is in social work, so by combining our expertise we were determined to open a successful, sustainable business whose mission is to give back to our community and grow cycling. Since the beginning, we have been involved in local and national advocacy. After six years of having one shop, two kids and many fabulous employees, we decided to open a second location. We opened The Bike Lane Reston in the same shopping center where the bike shop in which we met was located (it had since closed). After ten years of business, we relocated our original location from Burke to Springfield, about one and a half miles away.
The Reston and Springfield locations
What do the shops look like today?
We currently have 10 full time employees and up to 40 staff during the busy season. Our two shops are very different from one another. One location caters more to the family riders while the other location is in a business and retail epicenter that caters to a strong bicycling community. However, both shops remain dedicated to getting more people on bikes, no matter what their ability level or their bicycling interest. We’re lucky to have a 40-mile rail trail behind our Reston location that serves as a commuter route into Washington DC. There are also great mountain bike trails about a mile from each shop. We just added a new mountain bike rental fleet to each location and expanded our road rental fleet in the Reston shop. We did this to meet the needs of traveling customers who are finding out that the DC Metro area has a growing bike infrastructure and a lot of recreational cycling opportunities.
What are some unique ways that The Bike Lane has reached out to new PeopleForBikes supporters?
The Bike Lane is really excited to be a part of the Retail Round Up program! We see this as a great opportunity to not only raise funds for our local pumptracks and get more kids riding, but also to make the connection with our customers of the local effects of PeopleForBikes. We have always talked up PeopleForBikes in the shop and ran around with a clipboard signing people up at our local events. But the opportunity to really showcase a local project is very exciting, so we are in the process of making a big push for donations for the Round Up program and leveraging that to increase awareness of what PeopleForBikes does at a national level.
Employees have also always been excited about the program because advocacy is at the core of who The Bike Lane is. Naturally, our employees are also fans of better riding too. However, the Round Up Program has made it easier to talk about PeopleForBikes as a national organization that has an impact at a local level.
In what ways is The Bike Lane involved with your local community?
The Bike Lane is very involved in the bicycling community. We are very active members of MORE, the local International Mountain Bicycling Association chapter club, and we attend numerous meetings advocating for local trails. I was on the MORE board of directors for more 10 years and am still involved in fundraising for the club. I have written grants for various projects, helping win more than $350,000 for local trails.
We’ve been involved in creating and finalizing our county’s Bike Master Plan. We regularly attend meetings related to transportation planning and creating more bike friendly communities. The Bike Lane sponsors more than 50 rides, races and cycling events every year and is involved in planning the local Bike to Work Day pit stops and supporting Bike to School Day through marketing and donations to local schools.
Our favorite project has been our Junior Ride Program. We started doing regular mountain bike rides for kids ages 6-18 about six years ago at a local park. Over the years, the program has grown to having weekly rides at two parks, and we are now partnering with MORE to grow the program to various parks throughout the region. Many of the kids from the rides are now racing in the newly formed Virginia NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) series and other local races. We have helped create the Northern Virginia Youth Composite Team, which in its first year has about twenty team members! It’s been really exciting to watch these kids go from barely riding two wheels to now racing and going to national events.
At the Trails for Youth Mountain Bike Race, an annual kids-only race
Do you have one day that stands out as the most memorable at The Bike Lane?
The best day ever was when we relocated our first location to another shopping center down the street. We put the word out that we needed help getting the bike inventory from the old location to the new location. On moving day, we had more than 60 customers show up to ride our inventory, escorted by police, to the new location. The turnout was so great, we hardly had enough bikes for everyone! It was a pretty amazing day and it really showed us how much our customers mean to us and how supportive they are of The Bike Lane.
Customers moving bikes to the new store with a police escort (and some costumes)
Do you have any big plans for your stores in the coming months?
We are looking forward to 2015! Our county Bike Master Plan is in its final stages of being approved. This will help move many bicycling initiatives along. We expect to build our first pump track?a result of the Round Up Program?and we know that youth bicycling will continue to grow as a result.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The Bike Lane is really excited about the initiatives that we are involved in to get more youth riding. For the future of bicycling, we feel strongly that the more opportunities kids have to ride, the better. Through programs like Safe Routes to School and our growing youth riding and racing programs, we hope to build a stronger future for bicycling. We are lucky to support and work with some pretty amazing advocates who have blown us away by what they have been able to accomplish over the years. There is always a bike trail, a transportation plan or a new bike initiative happening and we strive very hard to support them all. We are really grateful for PeopleForBikes’ support on the national and local level.
A big thanks to Anne and the rest of the crew at The Bike Lane for their continued support!