The Swedish furniture giant Ikea, which strongly objected to a new bike lane in front of its Red Hook store earlier this year, just gave every one of its workers — wait for it! — a new bicycle!
On Tuesday, the Swedish home furnishings giant began handing out 12,400 two-wheelers to its workers nationwide — launching the “gift surprise” at its Beard Street store.
Company officials insisted the event was hypocrisy-free — even though they blasted part of the four-block cycle path painted in both directions on Columbia Street from Bay Street onto Halleck and Beard streets back in June.
At the time, Ikea manager Mike Baker said that a southbound bike lane along Beard and Halleck streets could jeopardize cyclists, cars and buses all vying to enter the big box store.
The store insisted this week that regardless of its position on the lane, it is pro-bike.
“We are very much in favor of bikes,” said Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth. “We have bike racks at our store. We have customers and co-workers who bike, and we are always in favor of creating as much access as possible to our store.”
Even so, Ikea is still not prepared to give its blessing to the bike lane.
“Let’s see what it’s like during the peak sales period and the summer time,” he warned. “Just because it is working out [so far] doesn’t mean it is safe. It just means that something serious hasn’t happened there yet.”
Longtime store critics don’t buy it.
“It is safer to have these established lanes, and in the interest of residents of Red Hook and employees to have them,” said John McGettrick, co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association.
The free rides are 26-inch silver mountain bikes, with the store’s signature blue and yellow stripes. They are not branded, and were made exclusively for Ikea.
Cycling advocates cheered the giveaway.
“It’s great that they are encouraging their employees to cycle,” said Noah Budnick, deputy director at Transportation Alternatives.