LIGHTING STORE, California — Bike shops have been a staple of the American bike scene for years, and now they’re becoming more popular as the demand for electric bikes and electric cars rises.
Some of those stores are also popular with tourists and locals, who enjoy the sight of brightly lit bicycles, their red-and-white paint reflecting the sun, and their customers waving their hands to the music.
They’ve also helped to keep local communities from becoming overburdened by building, transportation and maintenance projects, which can be costly and time-consuming to install.
In recent years, the city of Orange has installed electric bike charging stations in several parts of its city, including the area around Disneyland and the Orange County Museum of Art.
It’s a model that’s being replicated in other cities, and is attracting new business.
“It’s really becoming an option that is available to people who want to make the most of their time in the city,” said Rob Moore, Orange’s public works manager.
The idea of having a local bike store to sell electric bikes, which have become popular in Europe and the United States, also appeals to locals who have been frustrated with what they see as excessive building in Orange.
When the Orange City Council approved a permit for the new charging stations, residents and visitors alike expressed concerns about parking, pollution and noise.
One resident said it was “fantastic” that the charging stations would be in the heart of a community where it is “always sunny.”
“We’ve been told we’re going to have a lot of parking and it’s going to be noisy,” the resident said.
Moore said charging stations will help keep the local environment safe, and help to keep the bikes safe.
He also said the stations have made a difference.
If a bike shop opens up on a busy weekend and people come in, there will be more people coming in and taking the bikes for a test ride, Moore said.
“It will be easier to make sure they’re safe to use and have the right amount of charging.”
The new stations are part of a larger project in Orange, which includes bike racks in more than 30 parking lots, and a bicycle-specific bike share program, called Bike to Work, which also helps people buy electric bikes.
A lot of that has to do with the community’s desire for a safe, sustainable and livable environment, said Jeff Mays, Orange Mayor Tom Knauss.
But a big part of the effort has also been focused on educating the community about the benefits of electric bikes to the environment.
Mays said he was thrilled that bike stores were opening in the area.
Many people have been saying, ‘I would never go to a car dealership, it would be so depressing,’ he said.
And I think it’s a huge part of our city, he said, adding that it will be a great benefit for the area, too.
We have been able to educate the people in Orange who might not have even considered electric bikes because of the cost, he added.
After the first bike store opened, some residents even started a petition on Change.org calling for a city-wide bike share.
That effort is gaining traction and has led to more than 600 signatures.
Orange, which is home to the Orange Coast Regional Park and Preserve, has been one of the few cities in the nation that has not taken a public position on electric bikes yet.
Knauss, a former bike racer, said he hopes to see more cities take a stand on electric vehicles.
There are already signs up, and there are a few local advocacy groups working on it.
For example, the California State Bicycle Alliance has been working on its own version of the electric vehicle bill, known as the Bicycle Master Plan, which could be used to push cities to adopt more regulations.
So far, Orange and its neighbors have signed onto that bill.
Bikes have become a symbol of the future, but it is not easy for everyone to live within commuting distance of them, said Tom McBride, president of the California Bicycle Coalition.
Even if the bike store in your neighborhood opens up, you still have to be able to find parking.
There are also some people who will be hesitant to ride, and that’s where we need to work,” he said in an interview.
I would like to see us become more proactive about making our communities safer for our residents and our visitors,” McBride said.”
The next step is to have more community outreach so people can know about the bike stations and what they can do to be more safe.”
This story is part of KPCC’s series on bicycling in Orange County.
You can find more local news at the Orange and Los Angeles Times.