UPDATED: Cuomo Says Bike Shops CAN Stay Open as ‘Essential’ Businesses, de Blasio Confirms It

Talk about bike share!
Talk about bike share!

The governor’s office has relented and will define bike repair shops as “essential” businesses during the coronavirus crisis, putting them on par with auto repair shops that had been exempted from the statewide emergency closure order issued Friday.

“Bike shops can stay open,” a source inside the statehouse told Allison Blanchette, the executive director of the advocacy group Long Island Streets, who passed along the tip to Streetsblog. Blanchette’s group had quickly protested the original order that specified auto fix shops as essential but did not classify bike repair shops the same way.

State Senator Todd Kaminsky of Long Island said Cuomo’s office eventually came to realize that bike shops that provide repairs are indeed essential.

“In the wake of the coronavirus more people are avoiding crowded mass transportation, cycling provides a socially-distant, and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation and exercise,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “I’m proud to have worked with Empire State Development and the governor’s office to ensure that bicycle shops were included as an essential service.”

Still, the governor’s office has not returned multiple emails from Streetsblog since the initial announcement was made, which initially left some confusion on the ground.

Transportation Alternatives’ Executive Director Danny Harris is urging the governor’s staff “to explicitly state [that bike shops are essential] so it’s clear to businesses and the public.”

By Sunday, Mayor de Blasio confirmed the good news, referring to the “excellent question” that Streetsblog had asked him on Friday.

“We and the state have compared notes and we agree that bike repair shops are essential, and can stay open,” the mayor said.

The decision to finally allow bike shops to remain open did not come without an unnecessary fight that began almost immediately after Gov. Cuomo issued the decree, as bicycle advocates demanded that repair shops remain open during a surge in cycling and, more important, a supply chain increasingly reliant on bike-using delivery workers. Many shop owners found themselves having to fill out a state form (!) to get the governor to change his mind.

Other leaders and advocates reached out to the second floor of the state capitol for clarification.

And late on Friday, Mayor de Blasio said he would “talk to the state” about its lack of clarity on bike shops because “you make a good point” about them being essential.

It is unclear what swayed the governor. The battle itself was absurd, considering that the executive order closing most state businesses had huge carveouts for essential transportation and support for transportation. Lawyer Steve Vaccaro had pointed out that Cuomo had specifically stated that delivery services, including food delivery, were essential services.

“The point is that if something is essential, then the industry that supports the essential thing is also essential,” said Vaccaro (full disclosure: a Streetsblog advertiser). “That is the logic that gets you to bike repair and maintenance being essential.”

This is a breaking story and we will update later.

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