While the phrase "in this tough economic time" (ITTET) continues to drive me nuts, it seems restaurants in NYC are embracing bike lanes, rather than shunning them...
By Mathew Katz
When Maury Rubin, owner of The City Bakery, implemented a 50 percent discount for people arriving at his Birdbath Bakery by bike in 2005, it was a bit too popular--and too costly, so he had to reduce it to 25 percent. Still, he wouldn't dream of taking it away: In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, he says it's also helped the reputation of his bakeries.
"It's novel as hell," he says. "People are kind of thrilled by it. It helps create loyalty, and absolutely extended the name of Birdbath fairly deep into the cycling community of New York."
Rubin, who calls himself an "aspiring cyclist", isn't the city's only cycling-cheerleader. The Department of Transportation just finished a project to build 204.5 miles of new bike lanes, and with cycling up 45 percent since 2006, more businesses are embracing a "two-wheels-good" philosophy. Even MoMA offers a discount for people who arrive by bike.
But Rubin's bakeries have long been alone among the food scene in offering a cycling incentive; he says he thinks it would be great for other restaurants to give a similar discount, but that it's an expensive proposition.
"That 25 percent discount pretty much takes away our profit," he says. "It really represents an investment in the mission of the business and forwarding the reputation of the business."
But Wiley Norvell, of cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, says that with the increase in cyclists around the city, the discount could be worth the cost. "If you can build those relationships [with cyclists] now, when there are relatively few people competing for it, it could help business."