Bike shops push back on Baker order, seek to be deemed 'essential'

Ethan Forman/Staff photoCentraal Cycle, on Cabot Street in Beverly, and other bike shops didn't make the list of essential services from Gov. Charlie Baker, but shop owners are trying to change that.

BEVERLY — Bike shops are not included on the governor's list of "essential services" that can continue operating after Tuesday, and local shop owners are mounting an effort to change that.

On Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order calling on businesses that don't provide "COVID-19 essential services" to close temporarily to the public until April 7 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Auto repair and maintenance facilities were deemed "essential," but bike shops, which among their services, repair bikes and fix flats, were not. 

The order also said businesses not on the list "are encouraged to continue operations through remote means" that don't require workers, customers or the public to enter or appear at the business. Many area bike shops were going appointment only as of late last week.

With people avoiding confined spaces of public transit, some bike advocates say people are riding to get from place to place, not just for exercise. However, biking is also seen by advocates as great way to practice social distancing while getting a workout.

North Shore bike shop owners like Marc Bavineau, the owner of Centraal Cycle on Cabot Street in Beverly, say the shop is making an "essential service designation request" to the state to stay open.

The state's list has a form to appeal electronically for business owners who believe their companies provide essential services or functions.

"I think pretty much every single bike shop in Massachusetts has applied for it," Bavineau said, adding that he understands this issue has been discussed with Baker, in light of cities such as New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco that have deemed bike shops essential amid a shutdown of businesses.

"The biggest thing is mental health right now," said Bavineau Tuesday, in between answering calls from customers, about why it's also important for people to be able to get out and ride.

Dan Shuman, the owner of Salem Cycle on Washington Street in Salem and Marblehead Cycle on Bessom Street in Marblehead, said they also are asking for the designation.

"Well, I think bike shops are essential, and I think with all the parks closed and the gyms closed, it's a great way for people to exercise," he said. It's also a good way to get out of the house. Salem has a lot of commuters, and many workers at Salem Hospital commute by bike, he noted.

On Monday, prior to Baker's order, Shuman announced both shops would be locking their doors and with limited staff, they would be going appointment only to allow them to catch up on repairs, build new bikes, do inventory, and keep apart from customers. The website said they would be arranging with customers for bike pickups and delivery.

Shuman, at the Marblehead shop on Tuesday, said the phone has been ringing off the hook. No one was allowed in the store. Every bike that has been dropped off is being sprayed with disinfectant, and the shop is cleaning and disinfecting the store.

"The concept of bike shops, bike repair being essential, is an easy one," said Galen Mook, the executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. He said the coalition has been in touch with state transportation officials to see if they can get clarification on where bike shops stand. 

He said state officials don't see a problem with the shops, but they need to check with their local boards of health and officials. Lexington, Somerville, Boston and Provincetown consider bike shops essential, Mook said.

In Boston, a lot of hospital workers get around by bike. He said there is a push to get the governor to make explicit that bike shops are exempt, but he also understands "this is low on the totem pole."

Mook said because these shops are not prohibited, it will be up to local municipalities on how they enforce the rules on bike shops.

Salem's Board of Health hasn't taken a position on whether bike shops are an essential service, said David Greenbaum, the city's health agent.

Greenbaum, noting the governor's advisory didn't include them on the essential services list, said the local board would have to review each one on a case-by-case basis.

He said it may be best for the bike shops to request the designation from the state.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2534, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews. Find us at 300 Rosewood Drive, Suite 107, Danvers, Mass.

Recommended for you