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Bikes and Business: Rethink at the Wedgewood

August 30, 2013

Back in September, 2010, when the Hornby cycletrack debate was just heating up, I posted this:

The Wedgewood Hotel (is) located on the west side of Hornby between Robson and Smithe; it has been one of the most vocal critics of the proposed cycle track.

But imagine this scenario.  A well-heeled patron of the Wedgewood drives up from Seattle in his Lexus, and immediately checks his car with the valet.  He won’t need it for the rest of the weekend.

Instead, come the morning, he walks out of thWedgewoode hotel to the closest docking station for a bike-share or, more likely, asks the valet to bring him an upscale touring bike especially selected for the Wedgewood’s guests.

From there, he has a choice.  Either get on the green-coloured cycle track to head north, directly to Coal Harbour and eventually to Stanley Park, or south to False Creek, perhaps to catch a ferry across to Granville Island for brunch.  The return trip takes him along the Seaside route, back to either end of the Hornby cycle track, to return to the hotel.

The entire route is separated, scenic and simple to grasp.  He feels like he could be somewhere in Europe, possibly, but in fact it’s a uniquely Vancouver experience.  It’s the highlight of his trip – something he’ll talk about to his friends for weeks.

Perhaps on his next trip he’ll explore other routes that connect with Hornby, like the Dunsmuir, and ride past the St. Regis Hotel at Seymour, where a slightly hipper crowd is discovering the same experience for themselves.

Yet instead of seizing the possibility, the Wedgewood sees only inconvenience. Here’s Nelson Skalbania, the husband of Eleni, the Wedgewood proprietor:

He said the hotel pays $400,000 in city taxes and parking in the area is already so limited that he has to provide valet service for his customers.

Speaking in front of media, city officials and passersby, he said saw no reason why he or his guests should be put out by the city’s acquiescence to the two-wheeled world.

And here’s the paradox: Nelson is an avid recreational cyclist.  As is Rob Macdonald, developer of the St. Regis, most recently profiled as a participant in the GranFondo, who is also white-hot in his criticism of the way the City imposed the Dunsmuir route.

At the recent open house at Pacific Centre, Macdonald and representatives of the Wedgewood were there to make their criticisms known.

Rob went on to fund the NPA campaign that was harshly critical of the commitment to cycle tracks, with the implication that we’d see no more of that kind of thing.

Soooo … how gratifying to see this in the latest Business in Vancouver:

Vancouver hotels are increasingly targeting revenue from cyclists as separated bike lanes and other infrastructure improvements help develop Vancouver’s reputation as a bike-friendly city.

Vancouver’s St. Regis Hotel, for example, is sponsoring the September 7 RBC GranFondo Whistler … The Fairmont Pacific Rim, for example, hired a “bike butler” for the first time this summer … The Opus Hotel pioneered the complimentary bike strategy when it opened in 2003 and has since doubled its number of bikes to six from three.

“They are always in demand because people like to ride the two blocks down Davie to the seawall and then ride around,” Opus owner John Evans told BIV. “We’ve had to replace many of the bikes through the years because they take a lot of wear.” …

Wedge 2

Coast Hotels and Resorts CEO Robert Pratt said his hotel chain sponsors his Brainiacs riding team, which rides in the race and has raised $800,000 for the cause.

Pratt got into cycling when he started riding with Wedgewood Hotel general manager Philip Meyer – a former competitive cyclist – several years ago.

Meyer said the Wedgewood has raised more than $2 million for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. That encourages cyclists in the ride to stay at his hotel.

Other initiatives, such as Meyer’s willingness to provide guided tours of Vancouver to guests, the hotel’s policy of providing complimentary cycling maps and its secure bike storage, all help to attract the two-wheeled set. …

I’m also looking forward to the NPA’s platform at the next civic election.  By that time I figure the conversion should be just about complete.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken Ohrn permalink*
    August 30, 2013 1:26 pm

    Businesses are getting it. Green awards and peer recognition too, from getting that bikes are good for business, and are a bigger part of our future.

    YVR Vancouver Airport Authority will get it — a major award due to their promotion of alternatives to employee single-occupancy car commuting, namely cycling.

    I say – “Way to go YVR!”

    This is from a press release by Airports Council International (ACI-NA), which represents most commercial airports in the US and Canada and has over 350 aviation-related business members.

    “The Vancouver Airport Authority’s Green Commuter program was awarded the top prize in the “Outreach, Education and Community Involvement Award Category . . .”

    Vancouver Airport Authority’s studies show that the airport growth rate within 20 years will put a heavy burden on current infrastructure through increased vehicle trips. To mitigate this, the airport launched the Green Commuter Program in 2005 to encourage employees to use forms of transportation other than single-occupancy vehicles. The program includes planning, infrastructure, education and promotion of biking to work though ‘Bike to Work Week’. “

    And from the ACI web site’s awards page:

    “Outreach, Education and Community Involvement Award Category:
    Vancouver Airport Authority’s Green Commuter program
    Vancouver Airport Authority’s studies show that the airport growth rate within 20 years will put a heavy burden on current infrastructure through increased vehicle trips. To mitigate this, the airport launched a program in 2005, the Green Commuter Program to encourage employees to use forms of transportation other than single-occupancy vehicles. The program includes planning, infrastructure, education and promotion of biking to work though ‘Bike to Work Week’. First, an analysis was performed on postal code information to determine where employees live, which indicated a majority live within the 15km area of Sea Island, making options such as biking more viable. In 2008, a sustainable ground access strategy was conducted to ensure that investments would bring positive participation. The implementation of the infrastructure incorporated results from a survey of 530 cyclists into the development plan. In 2009, the Canada Line rapid transit line was opened, and by 2012, approximately 16 percent of the authority’s 21,000 employees used this line to reach the airport. The airport also offers electric charging stations with no fee in premium locations. Bicycle lanes and connecting paths have been added to the transportation network, and the terminal building has bicycle racks and secure storage areas for employees. By 2012, 24 kilometers of bicycle infrastructure connected the airport to surrounding areas, with an additional 1 km to be added in 2013. The airport provides a comprehensive incentive program to all employees who commute by means other than single-occupancy vehicles. Other incentives are offered, such as National Commuter Challenge and Bike to Work Week to raise awareness of the Green Commuter Program. Bike to Work week promotes the program through the partnership with HUB, a charitable organization in Vancouver. During this week, the airport hosts cycling skills courses, offers free tune-ups, bike maps and refreshments. The airport’s cycling improvement program was awarded runner-up status as “Most Bike Friendly Workplace” by HUB in its 2012 Bike Friendly Business Awards.”

  2. September 28, 2013 5:16 am

    Hello Pricetags,
    This might be off topic, however, Hi,

    I’m thinking of buying a new (or second hand) racing bike in the UK. I would use it for journeys of 1 to 3 hours, but nothing serious… I want a bike that looks good and is good value for money, but i’m new to the whole racing bike business, so I wouldn’t know how to judge… Any good suggestions or shops??

    Oh yea and below 500 pounds would be nice
    Catch you again soon!
    Lonnie Gibson

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