April Economides

Interview with Tiffany Bromfield by April Economides

Tiffany Bromfield web.jpg

Tiffany Bromfield is the CEO of the San Diego Business Improvement District Council, one of the few non-profit business improvement district (BID) councils in the nation and the only one with paid staff. The BID Council recently invested in a Bike-Friendly Business District plan, which it’s set to implement in seven districts this fall before rolling out into all 17 districts. (Note: Columnist April Economides was the consultant hired to create this plan.) A BFBD is where merchants encourage community members to bike to area shops and restaurants – and where merchants and their employees ride, too. BFBDs integrate bicycling into a district’s operations, events, and promotions. More info is here.

AE: Please explain the BID Council’s role and what you are tasked to do as its CEO.

TB: The BID Council is an association of 16 business-based BIDs and one property-based BID, formed to foster collaboration between them. The BID Council acts as an advocate for the BIDs with the local municipality, state and federal governments. Additionally, the BID Council manages programs that help all BIDs or that have a citywide importance to small business owners. Finally, we’re incubating about 19  ‘micro districts’ in the City of San Diego with funding and staff support.

AE: Some BID leaders would be content to manage all of that – I know you keep very busy! Yet, you decided to invest time and money into creating a Bike-Friendly Business District (BFBD) program. Why do you see this as important for San Diego?

TB: The BID Council invests in BID-wide programs when they can benefit all of our member non-profit associations. The BFBD was a program that we could create and share with the 17 BIDs and 19 micro districts.

AE: A BFBD program seemed an easy sell to your 17 BIDs. What do you attribute to them immediately and enthusiastically adopting this idea?

TB:  We had some early adopters that were already doing bike-friendly programs, and a large concentration of our districts are in urban, bikeable communities. For example, the El Cajon Blvd. BIA already hosted a quarterly community ride called ”Bike the Boulevard” where locals biked to five locations on a Saturday. The Adam’s Avenue Business District’s local businesses already sponsored bike valets at local events, and at one of its restaurants/bars. The BFBD is a way to put some of the puzzle pieces in to fill in around existing promotions and activities to make a full picture.

AE: The plan we created together for San Diego has about twice as many ideas as what we executed during the Long Beach pilot. What elements are you most excited about?

TB: I am most excited about adding bike valet components to all of our special events. We host around 60 different events in all the BIDs over the year, so adding this component will draw new people and encourage alternative modes of transportation to the events.

AE: A year after the program’s launch, what would you love to report that it accomplished?

TB: I would like to say that we were able to encourage all of the special events in San Diego (both BID and non-BID) to have a bike component to get people to the events they host.

AE: Any words of wisdom for other BID leaders considering launching a BFBD program?

TB: A plan is a great way to get you thinking about other ways to incorporate bikes into everything you do. As we talk to the member BIDs about the plan, we’ve come up with new ideas. We left the plan broad enough that each district could put their stamp on it.

At ‘press’ time, the San Diego BID Council was about to announce its BFBD program to the public and media. Please check back here for updates.

Q & A with Toronto Bicycle Maven Yvonne Bambrick by April Economides

Kensington Bike Rack PhotoCredit on the photo.jpg

On a recent trip to Toronto, I had the pleasure of spending time with bicycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick. Yvonne is a bicycling celebrity around town, largely because of her role as the former (and founding) executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, the city’s primary bicycling advocacy organization.

In that role, she increased awareness of bicycling and the responsibilities of all to safely share the road, successfully engaged the provincial Ministry of Transportation to update the Ontario Driver’s Handbook to include bicycle and pedestrian safety, grew the union’s membership to 1,200, won a hard-fought bike lane battle on a major downtown arterial road, launched Toronto’s first mobile bicycle service station, and fielded more than 500 media interviews, among other accomplishments.

As a car-free bicycle commuter, she sees first-hand the economic benefits bicycling brings local business districts, and now is the director of two Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) where she brings her urban commuter and placemaking sensibilities to a traditionally parking-centric role.

It’s always exciting to meet fellow bicycling advocates who have also/currently work for business associations, so I sat down with her to ask her some questions:

AE: Anyone visiting your website quickly learns you are a multi-talented woman, involved in many aspects of Toronto’s bicycling and business scene. Please give us the skinny on what you’re up to these days.

YB: Well thanks, I really enjoy the various types of work that I do – they are all connected in some way. For the past year now, I’ve been working as the part-time coordinator for both the Kensington Market and Forest Hill Village BIAs. I also continue to speak and occasionally teach about the benefits and politics of cycling transportation, and work as a documentary and portrait photographer. Working so closely with this enormous variety of business owners is allowing me to gain unique insights into the needs, interests, misconceptions and concerns of multiple generations of independent merchants and entrepreneurs on a variety of subjects.

AE: It’s impressive you’re the only staff person for both BIAs – that must be a lot on your plate. What kind of work do you do for the two organizations, and is any of it bicycling related?

YB: I work on a number of different projects simultaneously – from the development of marketing materials and grant applications, to infrastructure repair to the production of events. In Kensington Market I’ve just wrapped up several months of community consultation around the frequency and type of neighborhood street closure events, and in Forest Hill Village we’re planning to begin the underground utility repairs required prior to a full streetscape redesign that will make the neighborhood more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

I’m also connecting with city transportation staff about the addition of five much needed on-street bike corrals in Kensington Market. With so many customers and visitors arriving by bike, and limited sidewalk space to add more of Toronto’s signature post and ring bike racks, the market has struggled for years with inadequate bike parking. When combined with the sculptural bike parking at the top of the market that I project managed in 2009, we’ll have added about 60 spots once the corrals are in. I think both neighborhoods, and in particular the next generation of business owners, are beginning to better understand that bikes mean business.

AE: What additional bicycle initiatives do you want to see Toronto business districts and businesses adopt?

YB: I’d love to see a Bike Friendly Business campaign take root. The City has been holding the Bike Friendly Business Awards for the past 20 years, but we don’t yet have any type of citywide ‘bike friendly’ designation that businesses of all sizes can strive for. I’d also like to see a greater uptake on the creation of secure indoor bike parking, in particular in larger office buildings and shopping centers. I hear stories fairly often about there still being rules against bringing bicycles inside certain buildings for no apparent reason. That’s quite a deterrent from riding, in particular in areas where on-street parking is limited or non-existent. Outreach to property managers and owners could probably help resolve this issue.

AE: Toronto’s 2009 study of the popular Bloor Street business district showed pedestrians and bicyclists spend more money in the district than drivers, especially those walkers and bicyclists who live nearby. What lessons can other cities learn from Bloor Street?

YB: The results of the Bloor St. study were hugely significant, primarily because this was the first study to be undertaken in Toronto that showed very clearly that bicyclists and pedestrians are good for business. It completely refuted the widely held belief that most customers (money) arrive by car, and that car parking trumps all.

This past century has seen the automobile become so culturally ingrained as a symbol of status, wealth, freedom and sex appeal, and our cities so completely transformed in order to accommodate the swift throughput and easy movement of motor vehicles, that it is no wonder most people believe the hype. Thankfully, this is starting to change. What we saw on Bloor St., and I believe similar statistics would emerge in other comparably dense, street-level commercial districts, is that many customers arrive by various means other than the automobile.

I believe that ‘consumers’ (citizens) are also increasingly interested in supporting local small businesses – the shops down the road that you can walk or bike to, where you get to know the owner or employees, and can see that you’re supporting the local economy and contributing to the vibrancy of your community.

AE: What parting words of wisdom can you share on why bikes are good for business?

YB: The less money people spend on the purchase, maintenance, storage, fines, insurance, gas, repairs, etcetera of a motor vehicle, the more money they have to invest in the local economy!

Fun Facts About Yvonne Bambrick:

One of her favorite…

…Places in Toronto: Kensington Market & Toronto Islands

…Foods: Picnic

…Musicians: Jennifer Castle/Castlemusic

…Famous people: Strombo

…Words: Balance

…Bikes: My Batavus workhorse

…Artists: BGL

…Writers: Momentum & Dandyhorse magazine contributors