Birmingham does not have the most bike-friendly reputation. Dedicated lanes are basically non-existent, and as drivers we’re still learning how to share the road. But if the explosion in bike culture options in recent months is any indication, things are changing quickly. Two recent business startups ⏤ Parkside’s Wheel City Rentals and Woodlawn’s Cycle Cafe ⏤ highlight the potential for bikes in our urban leisure culture.
Wheel City Rentals offers ridiculously adorable vintage-style bikes in cruiser, tandem, or “Adult tricycle” configurations, available by the hour or the day. Operating out of Railroad Park, their location should be even more attractive once the Rotary Trail is ready, allowing renters a lovely and almost car-free ride all the way to Pepper Place.
Even now, though, the Loft District offers a relatively easy bike experience over less congested weekends, and the Wheel City website suggests downtown as a destination for independent renters. For folks less interested in solo cycling, Wheel City also offers tour options, using either cruisers or a 14-seat “party bike.” It looks unwieldy, but the novelty of a party bike is hard to resist. Either option seems like a good fit with the young, active Parkside branding.
Cycle Cafe has yet to open, but the Birmingham Design Review Committee gave owners the go-ahead in August, reported AL.com. The cafe will be a combination of coffee shop and cycling community hangout, according to AL.com, with co-owner Armand Margjeka telling the site he envisioned hosting screenings of the Tour de France. REV Birmingham will be the cafe’s landlord, AL.com reported, which seems like a nice tie-in with its imminent Zyp BikeShare launch, as well as the millenial-friendly work/event spaces at neighboring SocialVenture.
And of course, Zyp itself is the big debut we’re still waiting for. Will the coming years be the tipping point for widespread biking in Birmingham? We can only hope so. After all, Woodlawn’s business district is less than 4 miles of relatively level terrain from our Loft District offices. If we can make bike commuting popular enough that motorists have to adjust, Birmingham residents could pretty easily ride between some of our most popular urban areas.
Community rides like the Tour de Ham and Redemptive Cycle’s Trample have worked hard to make bike riding broadly accessible. If Zyp can successfully inject the REV Birmingham momentum into local bike culture ⏤ and lead the charge for more bike-safe traffic patterns ⏤ we might just see a local cycling revolution.