Our second child was only 3 weeks old when we opened A Bicycle Named Desire in 2012. I began my time in the bicycle industry of New Orleans back in 2010 with Confederacy of Cruisers, the very first bike tour company in the city. When I branched out and started my own business, I did so in the space next door to their shop—we melded into a small, locally owned cooperative of businesses. It was built with the aid of friends and family as a space, not just for bikes, but also for artists, raconteurs, and those special people that call New Orleans home.
Defying child labor laws, our kids grew up cleaning bikes and selling lemonade on the sidewalk in front of the shop. We never made it rich, nor did we really want to, but we were able to live comfortably while sharing our love and passion for New Orleans with tourists and locals alike.
Sadly, this city doesn’t always reciprocate the love you give. We paid taxes, employed locals, and supported other local businesses—including the Neighborhood Story Project—while the city decided to subsidize an out-of-state corporation owned by Uber. Did Blue Bikes really need free public spaces and a huge publicity campaign with the mayor to succeed? The city failed in its role as a steward of small businesses and strong communities, giving away its responsibility to grow local industries by opening the gates to every outside organization with more money to spend and smoother operators to sell their snake oil to the local rubes.
Healthy competition did not have to make us enemies. I worked with many other bicycle rental companies on a regular basis. The difference between the average New Orleans bicycle rental company and Blue Bikes is at the level of the playing field upon which we find ourselves. As far as I know, their business is the only one with corporate sponsorship, city property upon which to position their product, and deep enough pockets to give away their service for free to any and all for the entire month of September. Our pockets are just “regular guy deep” and can’t compete with Uber Bikes. After a 60% drop in sales, we will be closing shop at the end of November.
After a lifetime spent in Louisiana and most of it in New Orleans, I have a low bar of expectations for city government. I guess it just wasn’t low enough.
Cassady Cooper opened A Bicycle Named Desire, a Marigny-based bike rental and tour company, in December 2012. After nearly 6 years in business, Cassady announced that he will close the business in November 2018.