To say I'm oblivious is an understatement; I'm male, graying, and, um, male. So the other day when my wife and I were in a local REI store, I didn't immediately grasp her point. "Look," she said. "Look at that."
Er, look at what? "At that! The last time I was looking for a bicycle bell at REI," she said, "I had to look in the children's section." Indeed, there was a healthy selection of bells and other commuter-related bicycling paraphernalia in a dedicated "Commuting" section.
Interesting, considering that most REI stores are located in sprawling parking-abundant mall locations--often adjacent to such earth-loving retailers as Walmart or Best Buy. (One might wonder what REI's " Stewardship" effort means, when they can't seem to develop stores in transit- and bike-friendly urban locations. Really, try to find an REI store that isn't surrounded by at least 200 parking spots...and online doesn't count.)
Despite some signs of a shift, the bike industry as a whole remains very much in the business of selling recreational equipment. A quick leaf through Bicycling will tell you that. For two decades the bike industry has pursued performance enhancements that offer precisely no benefit to commuting bicyclists, offering high-tech toys to competitive or athletic bicyclists. You know, maybe .5 percent of the American population? Us bicycle commuters? Well, we just kind of "got by." We commuted by bicycle in spite of the bike industry, not because of it.
A "Commuting" section at REI. Another sign of the bicycle industry's growing interest in the bicycle commuting market? Maybe?!?