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Bike boom: Montrealers desperate for bikes amid coronavirus shutdown

​Bike boom: Montrealers desperate for bikes amid coronavirus shutdown
WATCH: With the COVID-19 crisis in full swing and the economy at a standstill, many Montreal businesses are suffering. But as Global's Gloria Henriquez reports, bike shops have been the exception; they’ve seen a surge in business.

With the coronavirus crisis in full swing and the economy at a standstill, many Montreal businesses are suffering.

But bike shops have been the exception; they’ve seen a surge in business.

Caroline Piché just scored the perfect Mother’s Day gift for her mom Suzanne.

“We’re doing a lot of staying at home and she’s been wanting to get back in shape,” Piché said.

But finding a bike was no easy task.

“Absolutely, oh my God, they’re sold out everywhere,” Piché said. “I went to Canadian Tire yesterday and I tried to find a helmet and it was impossible.”

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Quebec pushes back reopening of Montreal schools, daycares and stores as coronavirus cases rise

READ MORE: Regina bicycle shops busy with services, sales during COVID-19 pandemic

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Lamar Timmins, the manager of Allo Velo in Griffintown, says he’s battling to meet demand.

Timmins says he has sold out of several bike models. His sales for the month have nearly tripled.

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“Bikes are the new toilet paper now.”

Giant Montreal, a bike shop in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, is buzzing with work.

“It’s a nightmare. We’re being flooded by any style of inquiry,” said owner Olivier La Roche.

He says the store is also having a historic season for sales.

Demand for repairs is also up.

“Right now, can you believe if you have a flat tire, it will take minimum two to three weeks for us to repair it?” Olivier said.

Toronto to start closing roads to cars for pedestrians and cyclists during COVID-19 pandemic
Toronto to start closing roads to cars for pedestrians and cyclists during COVID-19 pandemic

One of the reasons for the demand, he says, is that clients are trying to stay away from public transit.

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“I’d rather not (go in the metro),” said Genevieve Asselin, a client of Giant Montreal.

She’s not alone.

As a direct result of COVID-19, Canadians are switching their commuting habits.

A recent poll conducted by market research consultants Northstar Research Partners shows that 40 per cent of Canadians feel that riding public transit puts them at high risk of catching the coronavirus. Thirty per cent say they’re using public transportation less.

Workers apply paint on the bike path in Venezia street ahead of Phase 2 of the Coronavirus emergency, in Milan, Italy. May 2nd 2020.
Workers apply paint on the bike path on Venezia street ahead of Phase 2 of the coronavirus emergency in Milan, Italy. May 2, 2020. EPA/MOURAD BALTI TOUATI
Workers apply paint on the bike path in Venezia street ahead of Phase 2 of the coronavirus emergency in Milan, Italy.
Workers apply paint on the bike path in Venezia street ahead of Phase 2 of the coronavirus emergency in Milan, Italy.
Councillor for mobility and public works Marco Granelli rides on the new bike path built on Venezia street in view of Phase 2 of the coronavirus emergency in Milan, Italy, May 2, 2020.
Councillor for mobility and public works Marco Granelli rides on the new bike path built on Venezia street in view of Phase 2 of the coronavirus emergency in Milan, Italy, May 2, 2020. EPA/MOURAD BALTI TOUATI

As cities reopen across the world, officials are making more room for bike paths.

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In Milan, 35 kilometres of streets will be transformed to cater to cyclists and pedestrians.

Local cycling activists believe this could be an opportunity for Montreal to follow suit.

“On streets that you can do it, if you can actually just say, ‘OK, there’s going to be no more drivers on this particular street,’ yeah, then, clearly, it’s like paradise for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Daniel Lambert, a spokesperson for the Montreal Bike Coalition.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Calgary group launches petition seeking more room for cyclists and pedestrians

The city of Montreal says it’s working on its summer plans right now — which will include making more room for pedestrians and cyclists.