What About Bikes?

New Mexico considers bike repair shops non-essential, so those who need them are ground to a halt

Those in Santa Fe who own a Lexus can still get their car repaired at the dealership. But the many residents who use bikes as a form of transportation or strollers to move their children are screwed if they need something fixed, according to the state of New Mexico.

Bike repair shops are not considered an essential business while automobile repair shops, including those attached to dealerships, are allowed to stay open under public health orders Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham put in place March 24. This is despite the US Department of Homeland Security releasing an advisory list that says "bicycle maintenance" businesses and their employees are essential.

Kiram Levy, a Santa Fe woman who sells her paintings on the Plaza, has been biking all of her life and doesn't own a car. She went to Mellow Velo to get the basket on her bike fixed Monday when she learned the repair shop was forced to close under the state's decree.

The basket on the back of her bike broke in half. Without it, she can't perform basic tasks such as carrying groceries back home.

"Some people may get their bikes fixed for pleasure, but that's my transportation, that's how I carry everything," Levy tells SFR. "To do my laundry, half hour bike ride. Grocery shopping, that's a bike ride. I do everything I do on my bike…I need the bike to carry things."

David Bell, the owner of Mellow Velo (and SFR's next door neighbor on Marcy Street), is not giving up without a fight.

"Every State in the Union allows bicycle stores to remain open, except New Mexico," Bell wrote in an email to government officials after he received a blanket response affirming that bike repair shops are not essential. "Allowing a Lexus dealer in Santa Fe to stay open, but disallowing a bicycle store to operate in the same way is CLASS WARFARE. Is it the Governor's belief that bicycle riders have less of a need for mechanical/safety support than a car driver?"

The order specifies "automobile repair facilities, and retailers who generate the majority of their revenue from the sale of automobile repair products" may remain open as many other retail and service businesses must close. It also says "transportation infrastructure" providers can stay open.

A summary of state closure orders for bike repair shops compiled by the League of American Bicyclists shows Arizona, Colorado and Texas consider bicycle maintenance shops either essential or do not have restrictions against them remaining open.

Michigan says bicycle repair shops can open if employees work on bikes that other essential employees use as transportation to work.

Replying to Bell, Matthew L. Garcia, general counsel for Gov.Michelle Lujan Grisham, asked him to send "a detailed but succinct summary of how you would implement" protocols to minimize contact with customers. Garcia writes that he would then review those protocols.

Tim Fowler, who helps run the biking nonprofit Velo New Mexico, tells SFR car repair shops are "exceptionally comparable" to bike shops when it comes to how high touch they are.

"I would say at the very least it is as easy if not easier to keep a bike clean [as a car]," Fowler says. "Auto mechanics and bike mechanics should be held to the same standards."

While state officials pointedly told Bell to close after he asked the question, Benny Manning, a technician at rob and charlie's bike repair shop, tells SFR as of Tuesday they are still open.

"We consider ourselves essential," Manning says. "We're keeping a distance, wiping everything down, trying to do everything by the book."

SFR attempted to contact Lujan Grisham's office multiple times without a response by publishing time.

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