Year End Oration
Posted on 24 December 2008
Editors note: you didn't hear too many voices of optimism during "the Great Recession," but if you were selling city bikes you were definitely feeling something exciting.
From all of us at Curbside we would like to wish you a great holiday and happy New Year!!
We will once again be closed from December 26th to January 1st. We will re-open January 3rd from 10 to 6pm. Sorry, no boxing day sale here. We're drinking Mojito's for a week. And now, ahem, our year end oratory.
Today, the Annex would make Jane Jacobs proud. Sure, we still don't have our Bloor Bike Lane, but what we do have is a pluriform throng of well-dressed cyclists who en masse have made city cycling look sexier than a pair of Jimmy Choo heels. The bicycle is no longer a tribal object bound to the Lycra, Gore-Tex and neon-leg-band crowd, it is a durable, comfortable and downright sexy mode of mass-transportation. Sure, Toronto may be miles away from Copenhagen or Amsterdam when it comes to bike lanes, but if you look at the throngs of cyclists in their dashing urban couture riding our dedicated city bikes, we have far more in common than you think. A good bicycle city does not begin with bike lanes, it begins with better bikes. As I write this I am watching hundreds of well-heeled cashmere-clad Parisians - truly the world's most unlikely cyclists - riding their Velib bikes en masse through the thick, loud traffic of Rue Rivoli. Velib is proof that a bicycle culture starts with nothing more than a good bike. At Curbside, we're convinced a good bike not only creates a new cyclist, but each new cyclist has a profound civilizing effect on traffic. And what's a good bike? Well, one that doesn't spray chain grease all over your Harry Rosen suit for starters...
Despite an enormous reluctance of the North American bike business to recognize the city cyclist, we at Curbside have managed to not only import the top city bike brands of Europe (and the World), but start an import company that is making these products accessible across North America. And they are selling very well. Today, Toronto may have the most visually enticing bicycle culture in North America. It is not a monoculture of Gore-Tex and Lycra, but a vibrant scene as inclusive and colourful as Toronto itself. We have no doubt that our success is tied to the fact that we are located in the epicenter of one of North America's most progressive neighborhoods - the Annex. See, despite the lack of bike lanes and proper bikes, people in the Annex continued cycling anyways - well aware that their bicycle wasn't terribly ideal. At Curbside, all we really did was listen and sell you a better bike. Getting the attention of Europe's finest bicycle companies wasn't exactly easy, but its been worth it. This year you voted us the best bike store in Toronto in both Now and Eye magazine, an honour that only bashfully pushes us to do better.
2009 will be an interesting year. As more people watch their pocketbooks, the more people will re-evaluate their transportation options. It is a simple fact that most urban dwellers live most of their lives in a small area which is easily navigable by bike. Companies like AutoShare and Zipcar are increasingly gaining new members as people realize that their car is a major monthly expense yet is only needed for a minority of trips. The beginning of the 21st century has been marked by an increasingly dystopic self-reflexivity over the automobile. The demise of the "Big Three" is only part of this. As is increasingly bike friendly policies, like Obama's recent "Bicycle Commuter Act", and hopefully, those bike lanes we need so badly. And anyways, lets face it, this is old news. Everyone knows a bike is better. In many ways the problem has been a lack of better bikes.
In the meantime, we are building on our current success. This year we will be busy bringing in some new companies, increasing our efforts in advocacy and keepin' it pretty. Thanks for joining us. 2008 was a fun ride!