UPDATED: Cuomo Order Declares Bike Shops ‘Non-Essential’ Despite Cycling Surge

Updated | Gov. Cuomo’s just-issued shelter-in-place order allows for “essential” businesses to remain open during the coronavirus crisis, but the car-loving Big Dog has defined “essential” to include auto repair shops, but not bicycle repair shops — a potentially grave decision for a city experiencing an increase in cycling and a collapse of public transit ridership, experts say.

The “essential” businesses were included in an earlier executive order which required workplaces to trim down to 25 percent staff. It is believed that the definition will carry over to the new executive order (we are awaiting clarification from Albany). Those businesses are:

  • trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal
  • mail and shipping services
  • laundromats/dry cleaning
  • building cleaning and maintenance
  • child care services
  • auto repair
  • warehouse/distribution and fulfillment
  • funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries
  • storage for essential businesses
  • animal shelters or animal care or management

Bike shops and advocates who have reached out to the governor’s office have been told to fill out a form to request “essential” status. No, seriously. Here’s the form. (We are still awaiting clarification from the governor’s office.)


In San Francisco, a similar order created confusion whether bike shops were indeed closed, StreetsblogSF reported, but Mayor London Breed later tweeted that bike shops could remain open.

Jon Orcutt of Bike New York said Cuomo should follow Breed’s lead.

“We urge the governor to look to San Fransisco and Berlin, who have already declared bike shops as essential retail under similar lockdown orders,” he said.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris also looked to San Francisco for leadership.

“Cars aren’t the only social distancing-complaint way to get around,” Harris told Streetsblog. “Gov. Cuomo should follow the lead of Mayor London Breed and designate bicycle repair shops as essential businesses during the shelter-in-place order.”

StreetsPAC Executive Director Eric McClure suggested that the governor is being short-sighted.

“He must immediately add bicycle repair shops to the list of essential businesses,” said McClure. “Once again, the bicycle has proven it’s the best way to get around in times of crisis, especially when keeping a safe distance from others so as not to transmit Coronavirus. Not including bike shops is a grave mistake, and implore the governor to fix it today.”

At the Castle Hill Bike Shop in the Bronx, a worker who declined to give his name also disagreed with the governor’s decision.

“Do I feel he’s right? No,” the worker said. “Everyone comes with a face mask. They’re not coughing. He [Cuomo] can stay home. He’s the one who has to mingle and shake hands. We’re a community store.”

Lawyer Steve Vaccaro said Cuomo’s order will need to be clarified simply because it’s all over the place.

“Cuomo specifically stated that delivery services, including food delivery, were essential services,” said Vaccaro (full disclosure: a Streetsblog advertiser). “He also deferred until later a question as to whether computer equipment repair should be considered essential … but apparently only because he didn’t know what the ‘Geek Squad’ was (the Geek Squad is the branded name of the Best Buy visit-you-at-home computer repair service).”

“So the point is that something is essential, then the industry that supports the essential thing is also essential,” Vaccaro added. “That is the logic that gets you to bike repair and maintenance being essential. He said during the presser that they were still going through the list of essential and non-essential. Applying the apparent gist of Cuomo’s remarks, bicycle repair services and maintenance of bike share should both be considered essential within New York City, and therefore should remain open.”

Indeed, delivery workers are providing essential services right now, due to the closure of bars, restaurants and other businesses during the crisis. It is unclear how those workers would get their bikes repaired if the governor does not exempt bike shops — and Do Lee of the Biking Public Project pointed that out.

“By not including bike shops as essential businesses, Gov. Cuomo’s order compromises the health, safety, and jobs of tens of thousands of NYC delivery cyclists who depend upon bike shops to keep their bikes and e-bikes in good working order for safe travel,” Lee told Streetsblog. “With mounting pressure on delivery workers to keep New Yorkers fed, the governor should make sure that delivery cyclists can keep riding safely by keeping bike shops open.”

Meanwhile, Revel, the rentable electric motorbike company, says it will expand its small footprint as of today:

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.