Bike boom: Montrealers desperate for bikes amid coronavirus shutdown

With the coronavirus crisis in full swing and the economy at a standstill, many Montreal businesses are suffering.

But bike shops have been the exception; they’ve seen a surge in business.

Caroline Piché just scored the perfect Mother’s Day gift for her mom Suzanne.

“We’re doing a lot of staying at home and she’s been wanting to get back in shape,” Piché said.

But finding a bike was no easy task.

“Absolutely, oh my God, they’re sold out everywhere,” Piché said. “I went to Canadian Tire yesterday and I tried to find a helmet and it was impossible.”

Lamar Timmins, the manager of Allo Velo in Griffintown, says he’s battling to meet demand.

Timmins says he has sold out of several bike models. His sales for the month have nearly tripled.

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“Bikes are the new toilet paper now.”

Giant Montreal, a bike shop in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, is buzzing with work.

“It’s a nightmare. We’re being flooded by any style of inquiry,” said owner Olivier La Roche.

One of the reasons for the demand, he says, is that clients are trying to stay away from public transit.

“I’d rather not (go in the metro),” said Genevieve Asselin, a client of Giant Montreal.

She’s not alone.

As a direct result of COVID-19, Canadians are switching their commuting habits.

A recent poll conducted by market research consultants Northstar Research Partners shows that 40 per cent of Canadians feel that riding public transit puts them at high risk of catching the coronavirus. Thirty per cent say they’re using public transportation less.

As cities reopen across the world, officials are making more room for bike paths.

In Milan, 35 kilometres of streets will be transformed to cater to cyclists and pedestrians.

Local cycling activists believe this could be an opportunity for Montreal to follow suit.

“On streets that you can do it, if you can actually just say, ‘OK, there’s going to be no more drivers on this particular street,’ yeah, then, clearly, it’s like paradise for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Daniel Lambert, a spokesperson for the Montreal Bike Coalition.

The city of Montreal says it’s working on its summer plans right now — which will include making more room for pedestrians and cyclists.

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