Ah-Ha Moments: When Bicycling Makes Sense for Business

ah ha bikes business

As we celebrate Bike Month and Bike to Work Day, imagine if biking was an integral part of the business community in downtown – how attractive would that be? Well, some businesses have already incorporated cycling into their unique business models thato helped make their establishments become much loved local destinations where the needs of cyclists are understood and embraced. Movability spoke with Royal Blue Grocery, BikeCaffe Austin and Whole Foods to find out more about the “ah-ha moments” they experienced and how cycling makes sense to their business.

Craig Staley co-owner of Royal Blue Grocery, partner in Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop, key developer of Austin’s upcoming Bike Share and Movability board member. Royal Blue Grocery uses bikes to transport product between their three stores, all of which are 1/4 to 1/2 mile away from each other. The small specialty shops cater to cyclists and pedestrians and have recently been spotlighted for their premiere outdoor patio on Congress Ave.

Our Ah-ha moment came as we were trying to figure out how to make deliveries to our stores where there is virtually no available parking that you can count on. For many trips, the bike just makes more sense than a car. The bike is faster than a car for those short trips and we can go door to door. This is critical for us, especially when we’re transporting hot or cold food.

 Hopefully, as downtown Austin becomes more crowded, we will naturally see people gravitate to other modes besides the car. Part of our mission with Royal Blue is to add to the vibrancy of downtown Austin. We want people walking by and milling around our front door. Using a bike in our business is a natural fit with the Austin we want. We hope we are setting an example that others will follow.

Jerry Strickland, owner of BikeCaffe Austin, a full-service coffee shop on wheels stationed at 9th & Congress in downtown Austin. With their unique custom bike trailer that allows their business mobility, the folks behind BikeCaffe know what it’s like to be on the go as a cyclist in downtown Austin.

I love coffee. I love bikes. What could be better than pairing the two together? As a business, bikes just make sense. We can reduce costs by being creative about how we bring our products to the general public. For us, the bike isn’t just a schtick, it’s the platform for our businessquite literally. Make no mistake, when it’s summertime and we’re pedaling to an offsite event, I sometimes question what the heck I was thinking putting a coffee shop on a bike. From a logistics standpoint, it would have been a whole lot easier to put this thing in a food truck or on a trailer, but that’s not who we are. 

 Being bike-centric isn’t about picking the easiest business model, it’s about picking the one we think is the best. From a cost standpoint, while other businesses feel the ebb and flow of the price at the gas pump, I’m content knowing that the pedal-powered lifestyle is about freedom and knowing we’re working to responsibly serve our customers and our community.

 Opportunities exist in Austin to help promote responsible transit and transportation solutions. It just takes some effort and creativity to navigate them whether it’s providing more bike racks to serve your customers or to engage with businesses that deliver via bike. 

Whole Foods continuously finds ways to embrace Austin’s cycling community. They offer  an open invitation to an abundance of bike racks upstairs, in the garage and all around the building that host bicyclists around the clock.  Plus they have a free bike repair station open 24-hrs for cyclists make minor repairs (thank you!). Providing so many of their customers with bike parking keeps unnecessary short-trips off the road. In addition, they have a bike delivery service that keeps short, commercial trips off the road while meeting their customer’s shopping needs.

India Owens, Concierge at Whole Foods Market Downtown, explains that the program has been a huge success in the downtown area, catering to restaurants, businesses and individuals who are hesitant to deal with the hassles of downtown traffic themselves.

Sometimes it’s difficult for people to get to our store because of the location and downtown traffic, so it makes sense to take it to them. Our bike delivery program allows us to provide customers with products and service without them dealing with traffic. We realized that the demand for grocery delivery was high in our immediate area. It made no sense to drive less than a mile to deliver groceries when we could bike them over more quickly and for freewhether it’s something as small as a lunch or a company’s snacks and groceries for a week. We now have at least three people doing bike delivery Monday through Saturday and businesses keeps increasing. 

Have you had an “ah ha moment” that’s improved your personal or business lifestyle? We’d love to hear it! Take a minute to share your story with us in a comment.

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