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With Love and Bicycles: A Letter to Our #LdnOntBike Community

With Love and Bicycles: A Letter to Our #LdnOntBike Community

Some personal news from Ben.

Ben and Caroline smile up at the camera which looks down on a brand new baby in a carseat within a Bullitt long john bike.

Dear #LdnOntBike,

Please read ‘til the end, there is no TL;DR here.

When I opened London Bicycle Café four and a half years ago, I billed it as a “five year mission” (yes, that’s a Star Trek reference) to transform how Londoners moved around their city. While I knew the climate emergency was coming when I opened the shop, and knew bikes would be an essential part of our city’s solution, I wasn’t quite ready for how fast the devastating effects of global heating would reach us during our first few years. Regardless of whether you cycle for climate, for health, for economics, or for happiness, I wanted to help people cycle more often. My experience cycling all over the world led me to understand three components are necessary for people to choose a bike for transportation, and I knew that I could help our city by providing one of them. The three things that enable people to ride (and scoot, roll, and wheel) more often are:

  1. Protected Lanes (safe access to destinations)
  2. Secure Bike Parking (safe property storage)
  3. Transport-Focused Bike Shops (availability of practical bikes, and reliable maintenance)

While the first two ingredients for a cycling city are primarily government responsibilities, the third is often the spark to get cities moving all together (as I had the privilege to witness first hand in Calgary with Bike Bike’s outstanding contribution to growing the citizen cycling movement there). Nearly five years later, we’ve helped thousands of people ride more often: by providing professional service, by sourcing the perfect #NewBikeDay for your family, or by having the right accessories to get you #ToTheGroceryStoreAndBeyond with the bike you already own. It’s been a privilege and a delight to serve our growing community.

This fall we will move into a new phase of our city’s bike story. Andrew Hunniford joined our team in March as General Manager, and has helped us get organized in a way we’ve never operated before. His contributions in the first six months have been simply brilliant, and while you might not have met him yet (pandemic and all), he’s been keeping all of us working together smoothly into a new inventory system, and broadly a new way of doing business. We’ve grown and matured a lot this year, and we have Andrew to thank for that. What was also in the works this spring (and what wasn’t finalized until recently) was Andrew taking on ownership of the store, as a partner. It was the right time for both of us to make a transition, and he will carry the torch for citizen cycling in London in the challenging decade ahead. The team we’ve built, with the experience of Alex Tritton in the service department and organizational skill of Nadia Petrasiunas handling parts and e-commerce is well equipped to continue to grow and serve our community of people wanting to get around by bike here in London. We’re a team of parents, who care deeply about our kids’ futures, and it’s been amazing coming to work every day with them this season.

For me and my family, this autumn is the right time to make a transition, too. On September 3, I’ll be stepping away from day-to-day operation of London Bicycle Café. While I’ll still be involved remotely, it will be a change for all of us. My family is relocating to Victoria, where my partner will begin her medical practice after completing residency here this spring. I’m going to take time away to raise our young kids, and take a deep breath after the intensity of starting and growing a business from the ground up. The past five years have been both challenging and uplifting in ways I didn’t expect before beginning this journey. I'm fairly certain there's much more to learn, as we continue into the next phase of our lives.

What this means for you, our customers, our community, our friends, is that you’ll continue to get top-notch service on your bikes that you’ve purchased from us, and that we’ll continue to work hard to grow the number of people using bikes to get “To the Grocery Store and Beyond.” Our new home by the river continues to take shape, and we’re thrilled to renew our five year mission (also the typical length of a commercial lease) to help citizens of our city ride more often. We couldn’t (and can’t) do this without you. Let’s keep going, together.

I’m fiercely proud of our bike community; Londoners on bikes have punched above their weight in every way I could think of, despite the near-total lack of infrastructure the city has thrown at us. Every time I see a post on social media of someone doing something on a bike that they would have done with a car, I do a little happy dance. I’m inspired by families riding together more often. I’m ecstatic when we get to help seniors keep riding into their golden years on an e-bike. And I’m optimistic about how many people have changed their habits to build the future we need for our kids. I’m excited for the future of the bicycle in London. We’ve made serious progress in the past five years, and the next five years will be even better.

Thank you, with love and bicycles,

Ben

ps - if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell you about our move in person. The pandemic and the length of time it takes to get legal documents drafted put us in a tight timeline. Please stop by the Cargo Bike Meetup, or say hi in store in the month of August, I’d love to see your smiling faces before we go.

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