Bike Infrastructure is Great for Local Businesses

I’m catching up on my long cue of potential posts, which is why some things may be slightly outdated.

When I saw the title of this Taking the Lane post back in May, my first reaction was more along the lines of, “wait a minute? How is this debate over?”

And then I read the post, and thought, “oh… well duh.”

Because it really is.

Infrastructure that benefits cyclists and pedestrians and other “non-car” folks is good for cyclists and pedestrians and other “non-car” folks. It seems like such an obvious thing, but perhaps it’s only obvious to me, and those who use alternative transportation modes. (I own a car, but rarely use it, opting to make bicycling and public transit my main options to get around.)

But then again, maybe it should be obvious to other people too, or at least it should be on their minds.

More and more, younger people are ditching cars or postponing ownership of one, and moving into urban centers where a car is not necessary or has limited use. Why the bickering over adapting cities to work with this preferred lifestyle? Not everyone wants cars, and not everyone needs ’em, which means we need to create and improve infrastructure that supports non-automobile lifestyles.

Anyway, back to that post.

For finally making the common sense of bike infrastructure in the US indisputable, we have the intrepid folks in New York City to thank. They have proven excellent in recent years at not only installing human-scale bike infrastructure, but quantifying its impacts.

(Also, if you haven’t already seen this, The New York Times has a baller map of how New York has changed during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure. Holla bike lanes!)

In 2007, NYC added cycletracks to two previously car-centric, one-way arterials on 8th and 9th avenues in Manhattan. As with what seems like any, and every kind of change to roadways that “take away” from cars, this one got some heat before and after it was built, but an October study released by the city’s transportation department puts most of the criticism to rest.

Here are some key points the city found after installing their protected bike lanes:

Retail sales increased up to 49 percent.

And that’s just the local businesses on 9th Avenue from 23rd to 31st streets, compared with only 3 percent borough-wide.

Dedicated bike lanes resulted in an increased bike volume of up to 177 percent, and an increased bike volume of 37 percent on the weekends.

The League of American Bicyclists has their own study that shows the economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure.

People complain that non-car centric infrastructure takes away from on-street car parking and other car benefits, but people on bikes, or just walking, are more likely to stop and patronize businesses near them. I don’t know about you, but when I’m driving in a car, the last thing on my mind is, “oh! let’s park on the street and get some of that local pastry!” That’s a hassle. (Then again, in the city, I usually don’t think about driving because that’s a hassle.)

But for cyclists and pedestrians, it’s just a matter of walking in (after locking up the bike). Studies even show that cyclists, on average, spend more money on businesses than people driving in cars. What business wouldn’t want that? Even NYC figured this out, and all they did was build some bike lanes.

And as Elly Blue writes on Taking the Lane:

The real debate should not be about whether or not to invest in bike infrastructure, but about how your city can create the most, the fastest.

Get on it DC. No more excuses.


Video: “Ninth Avenue Gets a Physically Separated Bike Lane,” Street Films


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