Judging by the skinny tires crowding Vince Hedger's workshop, there clearly are bicyclists in York.
The 52-year-old mechanic said he spends most of his time repairing bikes brought to him by customers who depend on those pedals to get around, the type of blue-collar folks who shell out bucks for repairs only when there's no other choice.
But when it comes to progressive, environmentally conscious health freaks -- the type of cyclists who drive biking culture in places like Boulder, Colo., and Portland, Ore. -- business at Hedger's Central Market shop is considerably slower.
York is "totally not a biking town," said Hedger, a well-traveled Alaska native who has been repairing bikes since his college days.
On the other side of Route 30, a suburban version of the same story unfolds at Gung Ho Bikes. Most of the shop's customers buy bikes for recreation, but few use them to commute to work as people do in European cities, said co-owner Jay Zech.
"What would we need to do to see that in York? $5.50 gasoline would go a long way," Zech said.
Building interest: While higher gas prices might do the trick, that particular initiative is not on the agenda of a group of locals working to make York City a friendlier place for bicyclists. Eat Play Breathe York is taking a slightly less intrusive approach.
Last week, the group marked its second Bike in York Week, the local version of the national Bike to Work Week. Its organizers unveiled shared-lane markings -- called sharrows -- along the length of Philadelphia Street to remind drivers of their obligation to yield to bicyclists.
City officials have also identified cycling enthusiasts as a key demographic in redevelopment plans for the final phase of the Northwest Triangle project, a 5-acre site near the city's burgeoning downtown business district.
"I think the steps that we've taken over the past couple of years have started to really lay the groundwork," said Kevin Schreiber, the city's director of economic and community development.
Schreiber said he is particularly fond of Eat Play Breathe York's big-picture approach. For example, he said, they're approaching local employers about bike-friendly policies at work.
"The end goal of all of this is to be a healthier community," Schreiber said. "Once you're in the city ... biking is not that difficult. I don't want to say it's super easy, but it's not that difficult."
Obstacles? Some things -- like weather and geography -- are simply out of Yorkers' control, Hedger said. But, he added, those aren't really the obstacles to a thriving biking culture here.
First of all, the city is flat, connected by a network of bike-friendly alleys.
"There's just routes all over the place," he said.
Secondly, the weather is mild -- nothing like the Alaska town where Hedger grew up and learned that bicycle grease freezes around 45 degrees below zero.
Also to the city's advantage, Schreiber said, is its position at the beginning -- or end -- of York County's rail trail.
York could be a biking town, Hedger said, but it will take a transformation of culture. Blue-collar Yorkers would have to embrace a progressive mentality that cars aren't the only way to get around, Hedger said.
And that requires leaders, he said. If city officials and activists want residents and commuters to ride bicycles, then they must preach from their own triangular seat on two wheels.
At Gung Ho Bikes, Zech said, the majority of customers still want a bike for recreation. But he's seen a slight trend upward in the number of folks searching for a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation.
"Yes, it's growing," Zech said. "But we've still got a long way to go."
-- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ydcity.