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BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Hot Market: Bike Commuters

In urban areas, the average motorist spends nearly two days a year stuck in traffic. Perhaps biking is the answer.

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Half of all americans believe that automobiles are the main cause of air pollution in their communities, and 65 percent are concerned about congestion on their roads, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Forty percent of those surveyed by the publisher Rodale said they would commute by bicycle if storage facilities were available.

The Inspiration: In 1990, San Luis Obispo, California, outlawed smoking in all public buildings. Predicting that that stand would swell into a movement, Al Miller, founder of a specialty architecture firm called Duo-Gard, devised a line of smoking shelters. The new products quickly became 50 percent of Duo-Gard's business and remain healthy sellers today. That taught Miller's son David, now the company's president, about seizing opportunities created by changes in public policy. So when the U.S. Green Building Council recommended amenities such as bike racks and shower rooms to builders seeking LEED certification, Miller paid attention. In March, when Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the government would stop favoring automobiles over bikes when funding infrastructure projects, Miller paid attention some more.

The Business: Duo-Gard, founded in 1984 and based in Canton, Michigan, makes outdoor structures and lighting systems. The company recently introduced a line of architecturally distinctive bike shelters for commercial buildings.

How It Got Started: Duo-Gard had previously created bike shelters at the request of clients. Early this year, Miller assigned his architects to come up with standard designs -- avant-garde to utilitarian -- that could be easily customized. The shelters cost $5,000 to $30,000, depending upon size and style, and hold up to 40 bikes. "There are quite a few companies making these in Europe, but almost nothing here," says Michael Arvidson, Duo-Gard's executive vice president, who presides over the bike line.

The Result: By September, Duo-Gard's bike shelters, introduced in April, had been specified in 30 to 50 large construction projects, to be executed in six months to a year. The company has sold shelters to cities in Connecticut, Iowa, and Ohio and is in discussions with several colleges.

IMAGE: Brian Stauffer
Last updated: Nov 1, 2010

LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.
@LeighEBuchanan




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