Psystenance

Sustainability through the mind's eye

Utility bicycles are exploding in popularity

Posted by Michael Druker on June 9, 2010

In an earlier post I suggested the utility bicycle shop as a sound business idea and a good way of lowering the barriers to cycling as transportation. As I’ve found out more about utility bike availability in North America, it struck me that most such shops had only recently opened. To see whether this was true, I searched out every North American bicycle store I could find that has a strong current focus on utility bicycles and bikes as transportation. The answer turns out to be a resounding yes. Below are the shops ordered by founding year.

Beer in a bakfiets (box bike) to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Dutch Bike Co. Chicago. (Photo: Flickr / Steven Vance)

1991:
Human Powered Machines* – Eugene, OR

1994:
Curbside Cycle* – Toronto, ON
Rapid Transit Cycleshop – Chicago, IL

1995:
Hudson Urban Bicycles – New York City, NY

1997:
Urbane Cyclist* – Toronto, ON

2001:
A.N.T. Bikes* –  Holliston, MA
Dutch Bike Company* – Somerville, MA

2002:
North Park Bicycle Shop – Victoria, BC

2006:
Jorg & Olif* – Vancouver, BC (they have since moved to the UK)

2007:
Dutch Bike Co. – Seattle, WA
A Black Bike – New York City, NY
Rain City Bikes – Vancouver, BC
Clever Cycles – Portland, OR
Tip Top Bike Shop – Oakland, CA

2008:
Bowery Lane Bicycles* – New York City, NY
Flying Pigeon LA – Los Angeles, CA
Renaissance Bicycles – online
Madsen Cycles* – online
Downtown Bike Hounds – Hamilton, ON
Metrofiets* – Portland, OR
Dutch Bike Co. – Chicago, IL
Joe Bike* – Portland, OR

2009:
Commuter Bike Store – online (the year is my guess)
Violet Crown Cycles* – Austin, TX
My Dutch Bike – San Francisco, CA
Wheel House Bikes – Santa Barbara, CA
Copenhagen Cyclery – Chicago, IL
J.C. Lind Bike Co. – Chicago, IL (formerly De Fietsfabriek USA)
Arriving by Bike – Eugene, OR
Beater Bikes* – Toronto, ON

2010 (up to May / the date of this post):
Republic Bike/Urban Outfitters* – online (founded in 2009, Dutch-style bikes added in 2010)
Bike Bike – Calgary, AB
Portland Velocipede – Portland, ME
Fort Langley Cyclery – Fort Langley, BC
Adeline Adeline – New York City, NY
Cycle Butik – Toronto, ON
Public Bikes* – San Francisco, CA

2010 (June or later):
Rolling Orange Bikes – Brooklyn, NY
icargobike – San Clemente, CA

Shops marked with a * build, design, or special-order their bikes. (Curbside gets a star for starting a major distribution company and helping design the Batavus Fryslan and Breukelen.) I think the number of shops doing their own thing is partially a consequence of major North American bike companies long ago abandoning utility bicycles. That said, in addition to the growing number of imported brands, some smaller North American bike companies do now focus on city bikes and utility: Electra (founded in 1993), Xtracycle (1998), Breezer (2002), Yuba (2006), Civia (2007), Madsen (2008), and Linus (2009). For that matter, new European manufacturers of city bikes have also been setting up shop, including Azor (1998), Retrovelo (2003), WorkCycles (2003), De Fietsfabriek (2003), and Velorbis (2005). Interestingly, both WorkCycles and De Fietsfabriek were started in Amsterdam by Americans.

Utility bicycles really are exploding in popularity, despite (or maybe thanks to) the recession. And it’s not just the bikes, but also the inviting “slow bicycling” that goes along with them, the ever-more-frequent calls for dedicated cycling infrastructure and buffered bike paths, and the rapid spread of bike-sharing schemes (which of course use utility bicycles). So expect to see more city bikes coming to your town. And if you want to see them sooner, now’s the time to open up a bike shop and get more regular people riding (and demanding cycling infrastructure).

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4 Responses to “Utility bicycles are exploding in popularity”

  1. Lexica said

    Another possibility for your list: TipTop Bike Shop in Oakland, California. Although they do sell bikes for the lycra crowd, their focus is on commute and utility biking. Once when I called to make an appointment to bring my bike in for maintenance the mechanic I spoke to said, “Well, we’re really busy that day, let me see… you ride every day, right? I mean, this bike is your transportation, right? Okay, I’m going to squeeze you in first thing – can you be here when we open?”

    Their website: http://tiptopbikeshop.com/

    I think very highly of the shop and everybody associated with it whom I’ve met.

  2. ecycled said

    You missed one started in 2010:
    Madsen Cycles (www.madsencycles.com) in Salt Lake City, Utah

    Otherwise great list. Thanks.

  3. ecycled said

    Ah! My mistake. I see you listed them in the text. My apologies.

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