Biking in LA? Nobody bikes in LA.

Bike commuters brake for products that make their trip easier, quicker, safer and more comfortable. (Iconoculture 2011) Biking is gaining momentum, as both a viable personal transit option and a healthy lifestyle choice. From 1990-2009, the number of bike commuters in the U.S. rose by a whopping 64 percent. As ridership increases, more consumers are looking for supportive infrastructure, specialized products and community responsiveness.

Designed for daily commutes

Levi Jean's "Commuter" Line | Photo courtesy of CoolHunting

Cyclists are looking for products and services that make their daily commute easier. With the first wave of early adapters, there are now numerous specialized services and products for cyclists that validate cycling as a mainstream form of transportation. In Minneapolis – home to the second-largest number of bike commuters among U.S. cities – The Freewheel Midtown Bike Center gets bike commuters pumped, rehydrated and on their way. The center provides a sanctuary for urban cyclists, whom on their way to work can grab a coffee, rinse off the ride in a private shower, store or repair their bike in the do-it-yourself repair shop. The hub also serves as a base for community outreach. This bike shop, which is the first bike hub to receive both private and federal funding, represents an emerging trend in non-motorized transportation.

Levi’s is not only designing jeans, but lifestyles. Their new Commuter clothing line integrates features that address the unique needs of cyclists, all while maintaining style and durability. For example, a jacket with a longer tail to cover the bum and longer sleeve cuffs to cover hands, all treated with a dirt, water and odor resistant antimicrobial layer. Designed with the commuter in mind, Nau’s recycled polyester Courier Windshirt combines the style of a tailored shirt with waterproof and breathable technology of a cycling jacket.

MyTracks App | Photo courtesy of Gizmodo

Innovations in mobile technology are making it easier for cyclists to navigate through cities quickly and safely. The app Cyclestreets turns an iPhone into a cyclist’s version of a Garmin GPS navigation system. It not only navigates riders on the best bike-friendly route, but also displays short-cuts. Can’t find a trail? Android’s My Tracks app offers mobile users the ability to view bike trails on Google Maps, record their bicycle tracks and share their detailed route specs with other bicyclists.

Culture of advocacy

Whether for pleasure, fitness or necessity, the number of cyclists is increasing. As the number of cyclists grows, safety becomes more important. In 2006 alone, 773 bicyclists were killed and 44,000 were injured in traffic related accidents (NHTSA 2007). With accidents becoming so common, a cultural shift toward awareness and protection of cyclists is under way and consumers are looking for communities that support biking and products to make their ride safer.

The Aragon Family | Photo courtesy of Zach Behrens & KCET

As part of an international event last April, CicLAvia drew an estimated 130,000 L.A. residents to ride, rollerblade or walk through the usually car dominated streets of Downtown LA. Veteran commuter cyclists took their families, while others were just looking for a fun and healthy way to exercise outdoors. Jimmy Johnson of West L.A. brought his daughter to CicLAvia to do something different. “She doesn’t get to experience riding in the streets,” he said. On a nice day like Sunday, he would usually ride at the beach, but looks forward to more events. “If this was at least once a month, that would be nice.” Antonio Aragon, an artist and muralist came out with his family from his south-of-downtown neighborhood. “Usually we just stay home, watch a movie or go out to an indoors kind of thing.”  Due to the overwhelming success of the event, CicLAvia and the City of L.A. look to make this event more frequent with an expanded route.

Cities paving the way

Photo courtesy of Pedal Nation Events

Riders are doing their part, but they are also looking for infrastructure to set the pace. Living in Los Angeles, it’s frightening to consider commuting anywhere on a bike. Nonetheless, equally as hazardous (and often rainier) cities are already on the right path toward improving infrastructure and encouraging ridership. The city of Portland does almost everything possible for cyclists. It’s estimated that 18% of Portland commuters use bikes as their primary or secondary source of transportation. The city is most noted for its bike boulevards, dense bikeway network, innovative bike corrals, large number of cycling events and lively bike culture. At the annual Pedal Nation PDX Bicycle Show, Portlandians can display their pimped out bikes. Having recognized this growing culture, Southwest Airlines is attracting travelers by waiving all bicycle baggage fees to and from PDX during the annual Pedal Nation festival.

Separated bike lanes in Long Beach, CA | Photo courtesy of Joe Linton

San Francisco has been the vanguard of bike culture for two decades, leading the way in bike advocacy and cyclist rights as well as bike-transit integration. With over 12,000 members, The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is the most influential member based advocacy group in the city, encouraging a larger network of bike lanes, paths and interconnecting neighborhoods. Last month, the city of Long Beach unveiled protected bike lanes, aka cycle tracks, which are bike lanes physically separated from streets. The cross-section is: sidewalk, bike lane, parking lane, traffic lane.  In the categories of health, environmentalism and now biking, consumers are taking accountability but likewise looking for groundwork that encourages and sustains their choices.

DGWB Perspective

Does this rise in cycling mean the death of automobiles? Not likely. But it does mean that consumers are actively reevaluating their day-to-day transit behavior and choosing different types of vehicles as part of a complete, balanced mobile solution. The pressures to save on fuel costs and live a healthier, greener lifestyle are driving the cyclist movement. As consumers opt for alternative methods of transportation, they will seek more portable accessories and services that support their new lifestyle.  Brands that can connect and share values with this pocket of impassioned consumers will be set up for success.

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