Interview with Lee from Paramount Sports: How are they adapting to COVID 19?

A series of interviews with bike related businesses are being conducted by GCAT board member, Jordan Richard. Here is the next one in the series. Please let us know at info@gcat.ca if you know of a bike friendly business that you want highlighted!

Paramount Skis-Bikes-Boards is one of our fantastic local bike shops in Guelph. They are located at 30 Arrow Road. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved it was clear that bike shops would be impacted by a sudden surge in demand, but also supply shortages. This has undoubtedly had a big impact on their operations. Thanks to co-owner Lee Ferneyhough for taking the time to do this!

Don’t forget, current GCAT members receive a 10% discount* on parts and accessories at Paramount and most other Guelph bike shops! 

GCAT: First of all, can you give us a summary of what your business is all about?

Paramount: We started in 1993 specializing in Skis and Sports. Over the years we streamlined and focused on 3 main sports; Skiing and Snowboarding in the winter months, and Cycling in the summer. We all love what we sell and it keeps things interesting switching the store every 6 months or so.

GCAT: What logistical and staffing changes have you been forced to make so far due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Paramount: Lots! First of all we have a couple staff members that are in the age bracket that is more at risk. They have either stopped working for the time being or have a reduced role that has their time here not overlapping with other coworkers. 

We were thankfully considered “essential” for bicycle repair. This allowed us to keep the doors open to take in and drop off repair work. Thankfully we were also able to switch to online only sales to keep people on bikes. We switched to curbside only for both pickups and drop offs of online sales and service work. This remained that way until mid May when the restrictions were reduced. Since then we have a small sectioned off area at the front of the store that allows us to do the same as we were with curbside drop offs and pickups, but under the shelter of our own roof. This also allows us to know which items that people are looking at and interacting with, and allows us to know exactly which items we need to clean before returning to our shelves. We have been steaming all clothing, shoes, helmets and gloves before returning to our shelves, as well as using disinfecting wipes on all bikes that were touched by non staff members. 

Finally we have reduced hours. Some of our staff members have young children, so we made the decision to switch to 11-5 Wednesday to Saturday to allow each family to coordinate childcare. Thankfully we have been able to keep our staff’s salaries to pre-covid numbers, regardless of the hours we have been opening. 

GCAT: We’re hearing a lot about shortages of bikes and parts due to supply chain disruptions and a surge in demand. Is this affecting you?

Paramount: Absolutely!!!! We have never had this low of inventory. We are lucky enough to deal with two large cycling companies (Giant & Norco). Both of whom are known to have inventory throughout the season. Giant (the largest manufacturer of bicycles on the planet) sold out of kids bikes in March. Norco was not long after that. We have watched our inventory dwindle and dwindle all spring. So much so, that at the official start of summer, we had less bikes in the store than we would typically finish the season off with. 

We have seen a pattern in what has sold out. It started with kids bikes, then moved on to entry level mountain and recreational hybrids. It then moved on to enthusiast bikes in the mid priced level and since has moved on to higher end models. Realistically, we really only have Gravel/Road and E-Bikes left in any sizable selection. 

After bikes, we started to see shortages in Car Racks. So much so that all of our suppliers are backordered until later in the summer. After car racks we saw certain bike accessories start to run out. Our helmets and other items similar are drastically reduced. 

Finally, since we, as well as most others in the cycling industry, do not have bikes to sell; our service work is incredibly backed up. To make matters worse, our suppliers are either incredibly backed up to get us product, or in some cases completely sold out of certain parts. So some bikes with typically easy repairs are not able to be finished as a certain part is backordered till the fall. 

GCAT: Anecdotally, we know a lot more people are buying bikes and a lot more people are riding bikes at the moment. This is both for recreational purposes and for transportation purposes. What do you think the impact of this trend will be in the long-term?

Paramount: It can’t hurt. I’ve never witnessed more people on the local roads and trails (I’ve been riding for over 20 years). It’s great to see all the families and new cyclists see the joy first hand of riding on two wheels. 

Typically when a motion for better cycling infrastructure or a new trail, or a bike park, etc, goes up for discussion there are a lot of people that don’t see it as money well spent. With more people on bikes, hopefully that number is reduced and the number of people advocating for it grows. 

Our local cycling groups should see increased membership. This also allows them to broaden their scope of what is achievable with their resources. New trails, more rides, more events, more smiles!

More people on bikes is never a bad thing. This year we have definitely witnessed a growth of new cyclists as well as people that are remembering just how fun and healthy riding your bike can be. I don’t think that could be viewed as a negative thing.

GCAT: What needs to happen for our community to sustain this increase in cycling, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us?

Paramount: I think the obvious things. More trails. Better trails. Better infrastructure throughout the city, (bike lanes, bike paths, etc). I think a bike park would be great. I think our local cycling community is in good hands with our local cycling groups (obviously GCAT included) With greater memberships, it would be nice to see more of a voice at city hall and beyond. We have a very healthy cycling scene in Guelph. We have great mountain biking in the city limits, and many trails within a short drive. We are close to the countryside, with roads with less traffic. We have some great local events that already happen. We could do more though. Tour de Guelph could be a weekend event instead of just a day (I know this has been talked about, but it would be nice to see). We could have races, and bike rodeos, freestyle competitions, mountain bike rides. With our local trail network and our thriving craft beer and restaurant scene, it would be awesome to see an event that shows how easy it is to go grab a drink or a bite all by bike. Call it the “Ale Trail” or something along those lines. Events that cater to the young riders and families are also needed in greater numbers. Ice cream rides, and story times in a park are all things that have been done, but typically once a summer. These could happen more often. All these things have been discussed in some light, some are already in motion. We just need to inspire the new cyclists (both young and old) to keep going. We all know how much fun it is to ride a bike, we now just need to make an inclusive environment that inspires people to want to jump on their bike. 

Our local bike shops, us included, love to be involved in these events. However it’s tough with a small staff and having to plan events during our busiest times. It would be nice to see, with greater participation numbers, that our community takes the reigns at these new initiatives. 

GCAT: What advice do you have for someone looking to buy a bike right now, if they want to use their bike for transportation in Guelph?

Paramount: Well if they can find one in their size and budget, they are already ahead of the curve. After that I would set aside a significant portion of the purchase price for accessories. A helmet is always strongly recommended. After that a bell and lights will help. I personally use lights(especially rear) even in the daytime. Some riding attire only helps at keeping you comfortable on the bike. Fenders, racks, a lock, kickstands, pannier bags, etc. The accessories add up, so I would budget for it. On a commuter bike I would go as far as saying 50% of the purchase price of the bike. I think having the bike fit properly and in good working order goes without saying, but I will say it anyways. After that I would probably pre-ride your commute, to make sure you allot enough time to get to work on time (without rushing so you can enjoy your ride). I would look at the trail networks to make your commute a little less stressful and a lot more scenic. Finally I would say enjoy it, commuting by bike can be a great alternative.

Links:

Website: https://www.paramountsports.ca/

Instagram: @paramountsbb

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paramountsbb

*There are currently exceptions to the discount offer in place due to COVID. Not all discounts are available at the moment as bike shops adapt to the situation.

Where would you like to see Active Transportation infrastructure in Guelph expanded during/post Covid?

This mapping initiative is called PlanLocal. and is created by Paul Shaker, MCIP, RPP ,  a professional planner at Civicplan.ca

Paul has created  interactive maps to allow residents to pinpoint locations on a crowd map in their city to propose things like more bike lanes, expanded sidewalks, or pedestrian-only zones.  Sites have been already set up in Hamilton, Saskatoon, Regina and Ottawa.

Now, let’s plan Guelph’s streets. Guelph has already seen a partly pedestrianized downtown during Covid19, as well as  some space given to cyclists and pedestrians around Eramosa Road and Speevale Avenue bridges.

We hope to have more engagement with the public on where you would like to see changes, in order to get a broader view of where active transportation infrastructure should be addressed in Guelph.

Let’s keep the conversation going and collect ideas to promote better streets! The site is very user friendly so it’s easy to add your input.

Here’s the link https://streetspace.planlocal.ca/guelph/

This map has been created by Paul Shaker at Civicplan.ca <paul@civicplan.ca>

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact info@gcat.ca 

Guelph Road Collision Report – let’s not forget ‘near misses’!

The most dangerous location in Guelph for people on bikes…Surrey and Gordon. One of our GCAT members was seriously injured at this location in the fall of 2019. This spot is likely full of “near misses” as well.

by Ted Bangay, director, GCAT board

The City of Guelph recently posted its 2015-2019 Collision report. First the good news: the report shows an overall decline in injury-related collisions and the number of cyclists involved in collisions. The report finds that injury-related collisions on Guelph’s roads decreased by nine per cent over the last five years, and the number of cyclists involved in a collision decreased by about 26 per cent. All of us, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists should be happy about these decreases.

Nonetheless, we want to put this report into a broader context.

All of us want to make decisions based upon sound data, and the City’s collision study is a good example of gathering useful data. An injury-causing collision between a pedestrian or cyclist and a motorist is an extreme event that by its very nature is recorded as a data point. It is natural for decision-makers to want to reduce collisions at the recorded locations by investing in mitigating infrastructure. GCAT would support investments such as these.

What the City can’t easily record are the conflicts between road users that do NOT result in collision. Call them ‘near misses,’ but these are all the forced sudden stops, swerves and other emergency maneuvers cyclists and pedestrians have to make to keep themselves safe from motorists. We speculate that near misses are far more numerous than actual collisions. Because the City can’t record near misses it can’t learn the locations of these. It is an assumption that the near misses are clustered at the same locations as the actual collisions. It is quite possible that there are locations where there are many, many near misses that do not result in a high number of collisions. It’s hard to say.

One thing that we as GCAT members, particularly cyclists, can do is to make entries in the [bikemaps.org]bikemaps.org site. This site is a crowdsourced tool for global mapping of cycling safety. On this site you can add your own data on cycling crashes, near misses, hazards and thefts. The City of Guelph’s transportation planners do consult this mapping application when they are setting their priorities, so it is very important for all of us to help out by providing as much useful data as we can.

Besides collisions and near misses, there is also the issue of active transportation users’ general feelings of safety (or danger) when sharing roadways, even when there are few near misses or recorded collisions. For example, riding on a painted bike lane as cars speed along beside is overwhelmingly intimidating for many potential riders. Research has confirmed that this fear is enough to prevent a majority of people from riding bikes who otherwise would do so. If the goal is to increase the modal share of the various forms of active transportation, particularly cycling, then the answer is to invest in infrastructure that overcomes potential riders’ fears, whether or not collisions and near misses are taking place at these locations.So yes, let’s pay attention to where the collisions are, but let’s also recognize that this information only tells part of the story.

And, if you have or had any near misses, (we hope that you don’t, but if you do,) please enter your information on the bikemaps.org site!

Annex Market Guelph, Guelph’s first e-bike delivery service!

Heading off for a delivery!

A series of interviews with bike related businesses are being conducted by GCAT board member, Jordan Richard. Here is the first in the series. Please let us know at info@gcat.ca if you know of a bike friendly business that you want highlighted!

Annex Market Guelph is a new grocery delivery business that started up a few months ago in downtown Guelph at The Cornerstone. GCAT was excited to see that they would be using e-bikes for their deliveries. We connected for an interview so that we could learn more about what they were up to! 

GCAT: Before we talk about e-bikes, tell us about how your business came to be and how has it been going?

Annex Market: The Cornerstone has been open for 19 years, but with the pandemic we’ve decided to pivot and form an alliance with Annex Market from Toronto, to deliver locally produced products, including our Cornerstone’s Own. We wanted our customers to have access to all sorts of foods and beverages produced in Guelph/Wellington, and the GTA. So far the customers that have participated in the program have been thrilled, and we’re expanding product offerings weekly to satisfy the demands of these ever-changing circumstances. 

GCAT: Do you see your business continuing to grow as we (hopefully) progress in our recovery from COVID-19? Or is the idea that this was just a temporary pivot during the pandemic, until things can go back to normal at the Cornerstone?

Annex Market: We’re in. Now that we’ve explored this new venture and realized the power in local food aggregation, we look forward to continually expanding this program while we re-establish The Cornerstone in this new context of Covid-19. 

A great service, particularly during the COVID 19 pandemic!

GCAT: You decided to use e-bikes for your next-day grocery delivery service. What are the reasons for taking this approach?

Annex Market: The Cornerstone was established 19 years ago, as a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in part, to reduce our environmental footprint. It’s been our philosophy since day one that we need to live lighter on the planet, and our food delivery modality should reflect that mindset.

GCAT: Was the idea to use e-bikes from the start? Or were you debating different delivery options?

Annex Market: We were, from the start, going to find a way to make zero-emission delivery work in the core of our city.

GCAT: What has the experience been like using the e-bike in Guelph? Are there any challenges you didn’t expect? Based on your experience, do you recommend it to others? What other types of business could take advantage of them?

Annex Market: The e-bike delivery method has been way better than we could have hoped for. It’s fast, convenient and obviously environmentally awesome. Other than Grange Street hill, it’s been challenge free. About 10 years ago, we tried to develop a “Downtown Guelph Delivers” as a mode to deliver all sorts of products from Downtown Guelph businesses. At the time, the demand for delivery wasn’t significant enough to make this a viable business. Now that delivery is becoming a new way of life, any and all businesses could benefit from this delivery system. 

GCAT: We know that safer infrastructure and a more connected cycling network are critical to making bikes a more attractive choice in Guelph. But is there anything else you think we could change that would encourage more citizens and businesses to try it out?

Annex Market: Expanded use of bike lanes and a Montreal-style Bixi Bike program, or an ebike-share program would be a fun and interesting thing to explore.

GCAT: Do you have any advice for people or businesses who are considering e-bikes?

Annex Market: Do it. Similarly to the previous answer, a business based ebike-share program would be an interesting thing to investigate. There is certainly demand, and where there’s demand there’s opportunity. 

Info about the e-bike:

Annex Market: We’re using Elby bikes, which have been amazing so far. The battery lasts up to 125 kilometers on a single charge. It also has the capacity to recharge when you ride downhill and brake, which makes the battery life last a little longer. You can ride up to 35km/hour with full pedal assist on, so it’s super fast and fun. We easily cover more than the downtown core with Elby.  We also are using Wike trailers, which have been perfect for our delivery system. 

Links:

Guelph local site: guelph.annexmarket.com

Toronto products: annexmarket.com

Instagram: @annexguelph

Facebook: Annex Market Guelph

Cool Transit-style Map for the “Network” of Cycling Infrastructure in Guelph

Your comments are welcome!!

Transit-style spider map for the “network” of cycling infrastructure in Guelph.

Darren Shock, GCAT member and local urban planner, spends a considerable amount of time thinking and worrying about how we can move around better in the City of Guelph. As part of a one-car family of four, the last few years of his life have involved a lot of time on two-wheels, in all seasons and with or without kids aboard for the ride. While he appreciates investments that have been made, he thinks we have a long way to go on creating an active transportation network that works for everyone. 

A few weeks ago, he was inspired by an article he read in Bloomberg City Lab. Here’s the idea: Make maps for bike infrastructure as if the lanes, trails, and paths constituted a connected transit system. 

With time to spare and an interest in maps, Darren put together a transit-style spider map for the “network” of cycling infrastructure in Guelph

Here is his explanation of the “rules” used to create the map and his initial observations:

1. Priority was to create a “network” of connected routes like a transit spider map. That results in some gaps in the East and West, since their lanes aren’t really connected to the N-S spine along Gordon or the E-W routes through downtown. If it’s on the map, but not connected, it’s there because it is either almost connected (geographically close), almost all-ages-all-abilities (AAA) infra. (e.g. Woodlawn or Eastview MUPs), or leads to a major destination (e.g. Dawson to YMCA).

2. Major trails are included (e.g. downtown, river trails), but more passive trails (e.g. around southgate) are left out. Primarily intra-neighbourhood trails (e.g. Westminster Woods) are also excluded. 

3. No shared routes or shared lanes, as these aren’t infrastructure. 

4. Internal University roads excluded, as they aren’t part of the City network. 

Darren’s observations: 

1) Like @Adamadonaldson says, major gaps in safe/connected infra. in the West-end. East-end too. That’s a problem. Can’t connect to the “network”, or move N-S easily. 

2) Connected doesn’t mean safe or useful. Majority of “network” is painted lanes (sadly), and there are still significant gaps to major destinations. Hard to connect east or west outside of downtown. AAA-like infrastructure (trails) doesn’t always connect to destinations. An AAA map, like the excellent one from @LdnOntBikeCafe here (https://londonbicyclecafe.com/map) would not be very inspiring in #Guelph, as we’d be left with trails and some disconnected MUPs. Not nearly as many destinations. 

London Bike Map — London Bicycle Café

londonbicyclecafe.com

3) Overall, there are more connections than Darren thought there would be. However, he has concerns about the quality of infrastructure that’s there, and where it is located/connects to. Some neighbourhoods are very disconnected. 

In an effort to start a discussion, and perhaps crowdsource improvements to the map, he encourages comments. He asks four quick questions for discussion :

  1. Is this useful? 
  2. What did he miss and why should it be there? (e.g. connected routes) 
  3. What would make this map better? (e.g. different colours, considerations for accessibility, caution signs for dangerous spots) 
  4. Are the “station” names right?

As Darren notes, he has no expectations for this map, but if you have a few minutes or thoughts, feel free to contact him via info@gcat.ca.