SURREY – With yearly bike maintenance averaging $300 to $800, compared with $9,000 for a car, Metro Vancouver is dramatically shifting gears in the way it commutes. But biking’s economic benefits go deeper than the individual pocketbook, says Kosta ChatziSpiros of Urban Racks, a provider of innovative bicycle parking systems.
Urban Racks’ managing director suggests thinking even deeper by questioning whether multi-level underground parking will continue to be needed in our growing bike culture, when one car parking stall can accommodate 10 to 24 bicycles.
Presenting that kind of innovative idea to property owners, architects and developers has proven key to Urban Racks’ continuing growth. A private company founded in 2008, Urban Racks is stacking up success
– $1 million to $5 million in annual profits – in good part because of its argument that biking isn’t just greener, it’s more economical.
"If you’re a developer or a property manager, you really can convince your local government that I have fewer people who need (car) parking in this building. Why do I need to build so much car parking? Can’t I just eliminate two floors and put in more cycle parking and less car parking?" ChatziSpiros said.
Priced from $250 to $100,000 and up, Urban Racks’ products range from bike racks to free-standing bike parking structures. So far the company has created more than 70,000 bike storage and parking spots, ChatziSpiros said. It’s "uniquely positioned" in Canada, while in the United States it is "competing with companies, like Dero, that offer this full-service approach."
Based in Port Kells, Urban Racks has expanded to Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Portland and Houston. The
16-member team focuses "on three things: listening, innovating and solving."
The bike-culture sell is working in economic ways beyond saving on car parks, ChatziSpiros said. Employers are seeing that "the overall health benefits of employees that get regular exercise from riding to work directly translate
into a more energized and healthier workforce with fewer sick days." (But more perspiration – leading Urban Racks to gently suggest showers as part of the property’s bike facilities.)
As ChatziSpiros notes, chuckling, it may not be enough "to smile our way through the day."