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Confusion reigns as states reverse course on 'essential' status for bike shops

Published March 26, 2020
"We know we're defying the governor's orders. We also know people need us," said one New Mexico retailer.

SANTA FE, N.M. (BRAIN) — More state and local officials are declaring bike shops "essential" businesses that can stay open despite shut-down orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, several jurisdictions have reversed course in what is a constantly changing landscape across the country.

In New Mexico's capital, long-standing retailer Rob & Charlie's remains open despite a state order that took effect Tuesday ordering all non-essential businesses to close. The New Mexico order did not make an exception for bike shops.

Eric Zuniga, a mechanic and salesman at the store, said police officers stopped by the store and told them to close. "We convinced them that as long as we clean off every surface and we don't exceed 6-8 people (in the store at a time) we feel like we are fine to stay open. We're pushing our luck a little bit. Bikes are people's form of transportation so we are also a transportation provider. Car repair, tire shops are open, why not us? We know we're defying the governor's orders. We also know people need us."

New Mexico retailers are working with the League of American Bicyclists on a petition urging the state to overturn the ban.

In several cases, jurisdictions that overlooked bike shops in their first orders later clarified that they could stay open, creating confusion even as retailers ponder whether they even want to stay open during the pandemic.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker issued an order on Monday that left the bike shop issue unclear. Officials in some Massachusetts cities, including Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, clarified that local bike shops could stay open under their interpretation of the order. However, the Baker's office issued an FAQ statement online at 8 a.m. Thursday clarifying that bike shops needed to close. Then, hours later and after lobbying by MassBike and others, the office removed that language from the FAQ, allowing Massachusetts stores to stay open.

In Colorado, some cities and counties specifically allowed bike shops to stay open under local orders issued earlier this week and last week. However, Gov. Jared Polis' more stringent stay-at-home order issued late Wednesday did not include an exclusion for bike shops. Some retailers told BRAIN they would remain open until the issue was clarified.

"We hope we don't have to defy the governor's order to stay open," Russ Chandler, the owner and general manager of Boulder's Full Cycle, told BRAIN early Thursday. "We were under the impression that the governor would exempt bike shops ... If the governor clarifies and lets us stay open, great. If not we're considering civil disobedience to stay open," he said.

At midday Thursday, according to a tweet from Bicycle Colorado, the state said that bike shops could stay open.



Full Cycle is not allowing customers inside its store but is taking in service work. Nearby retailer University Bicycles is doing the same and is remaining open until the issue is clarified.

Now, BRAIN counts Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Washington, Connecticut, Ohio, Minnesota, Washington, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Massachusetts as states with some kind of stay-at-home order in place that excludes bike shops. In addition, many city and county orders around the country make an exception for bike shops, including the San Franciso Bay Area and Chicago. Many states and regions still have no business closure orders in place. In some areas, including New Hampshire and New Jersey, the exclusion is for bicycle repair and service, making it unclear if sales are still allowed.

Currently New Mexico and Michigan appear to be the only states that have strict orders in place that do not provide an exception for bike shops. Local bike groups, PeopleForBikes, and others are working to create essential status in those states.

Regardless of legal status, many shops have decided to close out of concern for public safety and that of their staff's, and in order to reduce expenses quickly.

RELATED: (March 17): Some Bay Area stores declare themselves essential.

What's going on in your state and locality? Let us know in the comments.

Campfire Cycling remains open in Arizona, where there is no state-wide order.
Topics associated with this article: Coronavirus

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