St. Petersburg is making bicycle friendly businesses its business

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St. Petersburg is making bicycle friendly businesses its business

An instructor conducts a BikeSmart bicycle safety class at Black Crow Coffee, St. Petersburg's first Bicycle Friendly Business.

Bike friendly business is a big thing. If you’re a bicyclist, maybe you’ve noticed bike parking has gotten a little easier to find lately, or perhaps you received a discount on a meal recently just because you showed up on your bike. All across the nation, businesses, particularly in urban areas, are expanding their views about customer care and recognizing that providing bicyclists with amenities is just part of doing good business.

So what about locally? Businesses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and other cities around Florida are also making the shift. To expedite the movement, the City of St. Petersburg is trying a different approach: directly marketing The League of American Bicyclists’ nationally-renowned Bike Friendly Business (BFB) program to companies and including safety education and other perks for those who participate. Although St. Petersburg is not the only city to launch an organized BFB program (in fact, Tampa has a similar program through Tampa Downtown Partnership), it is one of the most successful.

In the past one and a half years since the program’s launch, 21 businesses have become BFB certified, swiftly ushering St. Petersburg onto the top 10 list of cities in the nation for the total number of BFBs and tying the city for seventh place with the much larger cities of Washington D.C. and Indianapolis, IN. Big names, like the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, SPCA Tampa Bay, and Florida CraftArt, along with numerous smaller businesses, like Black Crow Coffee, the very first in the city to receive a designation, have taken the plunge and are now BFB certified (see full list here).

Amelia Neptune, Director of the Bicycle Friendly America Program at The League of American Bicyclists (“The League”), shared “how impressive it is for a community to go from zero Bicycle Friendly Businesses just a couple years ago, to being in the top 10 list now. That is truly unprecedented and I hope other cities around the country will follow their lead.”

The City of St. Petersburg isn’t doing it alone. The transportation department has engaged the help of Pedal Power Promoters, LLC, a Tampa Bay company that specializes in the BFB program and other bicycle initiatives, to help local businesses tell their bike friendly stories. “This kind of programming is very important in our region, especially within our urban cores and dense business districts, where cycling is growing as a viable mode option. Businesses want to be a part of that and gain recognition for their bike-friendly investments and attitudes,” said Christine Acosta, founder of Pedal Power Promoters.

According to Vanessa Wheeler, who is helping Pedal Power Promoters with the program, “one of the hardest parts about the process is capturing the bike-friendly activities BFB applicants are already doing. Businesses aren’t incorporating bike friendliness into their daily routines because they want to check boxes on an application form, they are doing it instinctively because they want to support their customers. Because of that, they aren’t tracking these activities.” Vanessa went on to say, “it’s a great problem to have as it means businesses are genuine in their support of bicyclists.”

The most recent submission deadline, earlier in June, saw 11 additional applications submitted. According to The League, if the majority of these applicants are awarded with BFB status, St. Petersburg is likely to become one of the top five in the nation. Amelia concluded, “I also hope to see that the new Bicycle Friendly Businesses in St. Petersburg don’t stop with the recognition they’ve already gotten, but use their BFB Feedback Report and commuter surveys to continue to improve and increase their support of bicycling, bike commuting, and a more bicycle-friendly St. Pete!”

If you have a business and want ideas about being more bike friendly, here are some things you might consider:

  • Provide bike parking : “Staple” racks near your entrance that work well with “U” locks are much more secure than the old-fashioned “wheel-bender” style.
  • Make loaner bike locks available for guests: If you’ve ever been on a ride and realized you need to make a stop and didn’t bring a lock, it can be frustrating. Again, “U” style locks or similarly-secure locks are recommended.
  • Promote your services to bicyclists: Offer discounts for those who arrive by bike, host sales or special events for bicyclists, and spread the word that you support cyclists using social media.
  • Host an event: Take the opportunity to have Bike/Walk Tampa Bay host a free BikeSmart safety course for your employees and guests. Or partner with a local bicycle advocacy organization to host a fun group ride!
  • Be an advocate: Stand up for bicyclists’ needs and share what you are doing with neighboring businesses. Maybe there’s an opportunity to co-invest in bike parking, for example.

For more information or to participate in the city’s program, email bikebiz@stpete.org or visit the program webpage.

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