Update, April 24: Victory! In Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-59, bicycle maintenance and repair are specifically called out as a “resumed activity.” It appears the order is intended to allow exactly what we asked for: no-contact bicycle sales and service with appropriate safeguards, effective immediately.
We’re writing to ask you to let Michigan’s bicycle shops re-open for no-contact sales and service on May 1. You’ve encouraged people to get outside for cycling for exercise and mental health, and promised to rely on science and public health in deciding how and when to allow Michigan businesses to re-open. While we are not public health experts, we want to bring the following to your attention:
Some Michiganders depend on bicycles for essential transportation. Automobiles are expensive to own and operate – an average of $9,576 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (1) Bicycles are far more affordable for the 133,000 Michigan households that don’t own an automobile, and 19,000 households use a bicycle to commute. (2) But you can’t rely on a bike for transportation without access to repair service and parts.
Bicycle shops in other states show that no-contact sales and service can be fairly safe. In most other states (including New Jersey and New York), bicycle repair shops have been designated as essential businesses. Some have seen a surge in sales (3) in part from former transit riders, and met the demand safely through curbside pickup for sales and wash-on-entry/wash-on-exit protocols for repairs.
In Michigan, no-contact auto sales and repair are currently allowed, and it’s much easier to disinfect a bicycle than the interior and exterior of an automobile. Before the “Stay Home” order, many Michigan shops were already practicing mitigation measures like cleaning and disinfecting bicycles before and after repair, physical distancing, hand-washing, and keeping customers out of the shop. If allowed to re-open, they are prepared to put these best practices or other practices as specified by MiOSHA in place.
Clean air makes a difference for COVID-19 outcomes. A recent nationwide study (4) found that “a small increase in long-term exposure to [fine particulate matter air pollution] leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate,” and automobile travel generates far more air pollution than bicycle travel.
Bicycling supports good mental health. A 2018 study using CDC data (5) found that cycling reduced bad mental health days by 21.6% compared to not exercising. Cycling was second only to team sports (22.3%) in effectiveness, and better than aerobic and gym activities (20.1%).
People riding bikes don’t have to touch a gas pump or get on a bus.
Last year, you issued a proclamation for Bike Month, saying in part: “WHEREAS: an estimated two million Michiganders ride bicycles, because they are a viable and environmentally sound form of transportation and recreation; [and] WHEREAS: creating bicycle-friendly communities has been shown to improve citizens’ health, well-being, and quality of life, to boost community spirit, to improve traffic safety, and to reduce pollution and congestion; NOW, THEREFORE, I, Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, do hereby proclaim the month of May 2019 as Bike Month.”
We ask you to put these words into action in 2020. If and where public health permits, please allow Michigan’s bicycle shops to re-open for business with appropriate safeguards on May 1.
1) https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cesan.pdf (see Table A)
2) https://datausa.io/profile/geo/michigan#mode_transport (see also Car Ownership)