Two new studies suggest (as bike advocates have long argued) that bike lanes are good for small businesses. The rationale is very simple. Bicyclists tend to eat and shop more locally. For example, they are more likely to stop in at a mom and pop diner than at a McDonald’s drive-through.
One of the studies was conducted in Manhattan by the New York City Department of Transportation. This study, entitled Measuring the Streets, compared the growth of businesses on small city streets with bike lanes and that of ‘borough-wide averages’. The results of the study are convincing. Ninth Avenue, which received the nation’s first parking-protected bike lanes in 2007, saw business grow nearly 49%, 16 times the borough-wide average.
The second study, called Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode Choices, was conducted in Portland, Oregan by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC). It found “that people in the Portland, Ore., metro region who drove to bars, convenience stores and restaurants often spent more money per visit than bicyclists, but bicyclists visited the same venue more often, and spent more overall.”
Business owners are often worried that bike lanes will reduce their available parking and therefore hurt their business. However, although this may be a short-term effect, the bike lanes will actually increase business as it brings in more locals more often. The health and environmental benefits of cycling are often those heralded loudest by cycling advocates. However, in this time of economic crisis in the U.S., it may be time to change the conversation. Cycling is good for the economy. It is truly as simple as that. Cycling advocates have been saying it for years. Now, they have some more data to back it up.