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Are bike shops still an essential service in Ontario?

How to get your bike fixed under the provinces new rules

With the release of Ontario’s new list of essential services Friday, any explicit mention of bike shops was noticeably absent from the document.

It seems like an odd time to revoke bike shops from the list of essential services. Bicycle use has been on the rise as rising numbers of Ontarians are turning to two wheels to get around the city. It also follows days after Quebec reversed its course, and added bike shops to its list of essential businesses.

The new list, however, doesn’t mean a broken bike will have to stay that way. Ontario has increased restrictions, designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, change the way shops are allowed to conduct business, but they aren’t shutting down completely.

Young handsome mechanic wearing apron repairing bicycle while listening to music in headphones, interior of modern workshop on background

Still open – but under new rules

The new list splits the rules governing how bike shops can operate into two sections. Service, and parts sales. The changes place further restrictions on how shops can operate their sales.

“The updated essential services list includes businesses that service and sell parts for vehicles. Bicycles are defined as a vehicle under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act,” says Velofix’s Nick Di Cristofaro. As a primarily service-oriented business, Di Cristofaro says he’s still going. “I’m still able to operate. I am by appointment anyways,” he adds, so customer interactions are already more structured than a traditional bike store.

For Urbane Cyclist co-op, the changes are a little more complex, covering service as well as parts sales. The provinces changes go into effect Saturday at midnight so Owen Ardal, one of the worker-owners says, “we are preparing to have all the required changes when we open the shop next week.”

“If you find Ontario’s current list of essential services we are open for repairs under section 7 and 21.ii.B,” says Ardal, “While our parts sales are restricted to online sales with curbside pickup or delivery under section 15.ii. ”

“Our duty is to help people have functional bikes and keep essential workers on the road,” says Ardal. “At this point we are still maintaining our service schedule.” Urbane had already implemented significant changes to ensure a safe working environment and will continue with those changes on the service side. “On the spot repairs are still first come first serve, and the shop has continued to limit contact by keeping the front door locked and screening everyone regarding the purpose of their visit.”

For parts sales, the process sees more dramatic changes. Part of the change implemented by the Province is to restrict parts sales to alternative methods of sale. Urbane Cyclist co-op will continue part sales, primarily through its online store. Customers can pick up purchased curbside at Urbane.

Putting safety first means Urbane can’t operate as normal, though, and safety comes first. “It’s hard to turn people away,” Ardal says, “But to maintain the safety of staff and our customers we’ve had to.” The store will also ship, or deliver within the Toronto downtown core using local courier co-op Send-It Courier Co-op.