Vancouver bike stores fighting through COVID-19, eager to be declared essential service

Metro Vancouver bike stores are reporting "good" levels of business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but owners admit that the spectre of uncertainty remains as the province considers shutting down non-essential businesses.

Paul Dragan, owner of Reckless Bike Stores (with multiple locations in the Lower Mainland), said business has actually been quite busy in the past week as people search for outdoor activities that – by nature – creates spacial separation from one another. 

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"It's not as busy as usual, but it's quite busy for a couple of people who are staffed at the store here," said Dragan from his Yaletown location manned by two team members. "People are dragging in their bikes to put air in the tires. There are a lot of repair requests. And there is a lot of interest for buying used and entry-level bikes."

Even then, the sector is facing potential choke points from both the supply and demand sides. China, a major bike manufacturer, is just recently returning slowly to production. Meanwhile, Dragan said his suppliers in Quebec – about 30 to 40 per cent of his inventory – have now stopped shipments.

Then there's the looming possibility of the province dropping the proverbial axe by mandating non-essential businesses to close, Dragan added.

"We are doing things day-to-day right now," he said, but noted he is optimistic that a city like Vancouver (where support for biking is strong) can declare the sector an essential service provider.

"Bikes are part of people's lives here," Dragan said. "We have a lawyer here in North Vancouver who is able to work from home, but he always brings his bike to us these days because he said he can't stay inside all day, that he needs to get out... So this is not just transportation but part of people's physical and mental health – especially in an urban environment like ours."

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