Dennis Little, inventor of OptiO: The Better Bike Stand. Supplied photo, for David Parker column. January 2019
The best way to cope with retirement following an active business career is to stay active. And Dennis Little is certainly doing that.Besides running a strategic planning company offering services to small businesses, being an active volunteer with WINS (Women in Need Society) and being associated with Wellspring Calgary, he has invented a better bicycle stand.Little ran the multi-family operations for Nu-West from 1975 to 1982, and was responsible for the research and marketing of the multi-family master plan for the community of McKenzie Towne for Carma.From June 1994 until his retirement in 2007, Little was president and CEO of the Alberta New Home Warranty Program that requires builders to provide coverage for all new homes built in the province.Immediately after completing 14 years in that senior executive role he launched his own Big Little Group to offer small companies his business wisdom, including iBUILD Applications, a cloud-based construction software package to help builders manage their projects cost effectively, efficiently, timely and safely.But all work and no play isn’t healthy and Little and his family are keen cyclists. From their Canmore weekend retreat they enjoy riding into Banff — but finding a spot to park the bicycles is frustrating. Those that were available were typically ‘Lean and Lock’ bike stands that could be a nuisance for pedestrians to manoeuvre around and created worry about damage to the bicycle if bumped in any way.“There must be a better way,” thought Little, who began researching many models of bike stands. Not satisfied with any of them, he was determined to build a better bike stand.After months of designing and prototypes manufactured by local fabricator Exx-Ell Industries, OptiO: The Better Bike Stand is being marketed and Little has become a well-informed authority on short-term, public-space bicycle parking.This past June he presented a paper on urban bike parking to the World Parking Symposium in Berlin, Germany, and is waiting for confirmation to address the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals in Portland, Ore., this fall.OptiO is a simple stand that holds two bicycles upright and stable on their tires, able to fit any size by inserting the pedal axle into a slot. It stands balanced with lateral and horizontal stability — no more leaning, no front wheel askew, no chance of falling down and no more damage to frame and cables thanks to a simple slot in a bar.George Brookman was impressed and installed an OptiO stand outside his West Canadian Digital office in Inglewood, which means he has the best short-term parking facility in the city.Little says he is not interested in being a big manufacturer of his new invention but intends to sell his patent — registered in the U.S. — to a company that would take on the production and sales under licence.With design finalized he has become interested in promoting its use to help solve what he refers to as “chaos on the streets” resulting from the mission of cities and municipalities to persuade more of its citizens to become active and regular cyclists.They are spending millions in developing the infrastructure of cycle paths, cycle tracks, dedicated and separate bicycle lanes with bicycle traffic signals, but are only beginning to pay more than passing attention to one of the limiting factors — what to do with the machine at the end of the journey.Little is keen to talk to landscape architects, developers and city planners about the competition for space on our streets.Notes:I had to walk to the corner of 5th Avenue and 4th Street S.W. because I couldn’t — and didn’t want to — believe that Gainsborough Galleries had closed. But, sure enough, the space is empty and the windows plastered with For Lease signs by Colliers International. Such a shame after being a constant presence in the Calgary art scene dating back to 1923.David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at email@example.com.