by SC Reporter Reese Holiday
There is no better way to get around Sanibel Island than on a bicycle and Billy’s Rentals and Billy’s Bike Shop have been making it easy to enjoy the island’s more than 25 miles of Shared Use Paths with an array of rental options, two rental locations, delivery, sales and repairs.
Billy’s Bike Shop, where repairs and sales were made for the past 16 years, will move to the second Billy’s Rentals location at Bailey’s Shopping Center at the start of the new year. The original shop on Periwinkle Way was aging and Owner Billy Kirkland said he doesn’t own the space anymore. But he he felt strongly about continuing to offer sales and repairs.
Kirkland added that even though there will be some small changes, it will still be the same old shop. “It will not be quite as big, but I don’t really think you’re going to see any difference in it,” he said. “We’ll load up on the products that seem to move really well and people on the island need.”
When Sanibel began feeling the effects of the pandemic in March, bike rentals and sales slowed down in what would have been the busiest months of the year. Bike Shop Manager Clare Harris said the shop was deemed an essential business since they provide necessary fixes for transportation vehicles and Kirkland added that business has picked up, especially for repairs.
“Repairs have been up because we have people who have not been riding their bikes, or hadn’t had their bikes out for a while and wanted to bring them in and have them serviced and be able to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” said Kirkland.
Bike rentals have also picked up in recent months, which Kirkland attributed to the safety of biking in this health pandemic. “You’re outdoors and able to social distance yourself a lot easier,” he said. “You’re able to control who you are with.”
Billy’s Rentals and the bike shop have been following safety protocols since the start of the pandemic. Kirkland said bike rentals are sprayed with a bleach solution after they are returned, as well as the helmets they offer free of charge to renters. Harris added with these measures in place, more people are starting to feel safe with the healthy activity of biking.
“People who had either gone on lock-down, or were just staying home, finally started feeling perhaps getting on the bicycle was something safe they could do,” she said. “Just to get out and get some fresh air which is very good for mental and physical health.”
Billy and his wife Salli opened the rental operation two decades ago in the small yellow building at 1470 Periwinkle Way. Business expanded from bike, motor scooter and surrey rentals to sales, service and repairs. They opened their second location at Bailey’s Shopping Center in 2014 to offer a closer ride to places on the west end of the island.
”Sanibel is a conservation island and I don’t think there is a better way to get out and enjoy nature than on a bike,” said Kirkland. “It’s good for you and it’s good for the environment.”