Pedal to the Metal
Biking sees a surge in popularity
With the shutdown lifting in North Carolina, a lot of local businesses are getting a late start to what is normally their busy season.
But, one surprising type of business has actually seen a surge in business because of the coronavirus: bicycles.
Owners MELANIE and SHAWN SPENCER have been bike advocates in Wilmington for a long time. Shawn grew up here, and met his wife, Melanie, when they both attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The couple has long shared a passion for biking.
“While we were dating, we actually wrote it on a piece of paper that our dream was to own and run our own bicycle store. It was always the dream,” Melanie Spencer says.
Thirteen years ago, as the new shopping complex at Mayfaire Community Center was getting set to open, the couple went for it and opened up Bike Cycles, a bicycle shop with sales, rentals, and a full-service repair shop. When the state began closures this spring to help slow the spread of COVID-19, bicycle shops were deemed an essential business since many people use them to commute to work.
“First and foremost, we wanted to make sure our staff felt safe,” Melanie Spencer says, “and that we were providing the appropriate disinfecting of the bicycles and the bicycle shop area.”
The couple closed the storefront portion of the shop but continued to do curbside pickup and drop-off for bike sales and repairs with a full staff.
“We’ve had a big resurgence of cycling,” Melanie Spencer says. “We’ve seen the business get a huge uptick. A lot of people are remembering why they live in Wilmington, and they’re reconnecting with the outside area. The kids are home from school, and everyone’s in their house, in their garage, looking at the bicycles that they haven’t had time to take out in the past. We’ve had a ton of repairs and sales. People can’t go to the gym … and now they’ve got free time to get outside.”
More bikes were out also because Wilmington’s usual car traffic lightened up significantly during the stay-at-home orders.
But, for people who may be a bit rusty, Melanie Spencer has a few basic safety reminders.
“The first thing is you really still want to adhere to the social distancing rules. And, you don’t want to bike in groups. Stick with 6 feet of distance,” she says. “Always be wearing a helmet, and always follow basic traffic rules just like a car would. Remember to use caution, and assume cars don’t see you. Take a look around whenever you’re taking a turn or using your hand signals; take the time to make sure the people in cars make eye contact with you and do actually see you.”
“We’ve advocated for so long to get people outside and ride bikes, and hopefully this is a cultural shift,” she adds. “This is just such a beautiful place to live, and riding a bike is fun here!”
To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.
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