Cycling Means Business


The ECF published news to the same effect a while back, with real live data showing that the addition of bike lanes increases retail business.

Now there’s a very interesting story on the USA Streetsblog site saying just the same. We had already heard that businesses on Eighth and Ninth Avenues in New York City saw a 50% increase in sales when protected bike lanes were installed. But the Streetsblog also confirms that on San Francisco’s Valencia Street, two thirds of merchants said bike lanes had been good for business. And a key factor for any town considering a bike share programme: if a business has a bike-share out front, bike share users are more likely to shop there.

Guerilla Bike Lane Campaign

In one Memphis neighbourhood, people banded together and spent $500 on paint and made their own, unauthorised bike lanes. Six month later, commercial rents on this road had doubled and all the shops were full, when half had been empty previously.

Tanya Snyder also reported in the USA Streetsblog that businesses in some US cities were beginning to see the “spatial logic of the bicycle” with 12 bikes able to park in the space that would be taken by 1 car. There is also the capital and revenue cost implications: one parking space in a garage costs at least $15,000 to build and hundreds per year to maintain; contrast that with a capital cost of $150-300 for a bike rack for 2 bikes with minimal maintenance.

The following figures are admittedly from the US and may well be different here, but they provide a useful benchmark for comparative costs: In Tulsa, Oklahoma, they are spending $30 million to widen one mile of road with an additional lane. Compare what they could have got for the same money:

  • 600 miles of bike lane
  • 100 miles of pavement
  • 300 miles of buffered bike lanes
  • 120 miles of bike boulevards
  • 30 miles of first rate bike trails
  • 20 miles of highest quality physically separated cycle tracks

The blog also mentions a sound argument that I have not heard advanced over here. Road construction is heavy on materials, whereas bike infrastructure is not, so the same level of spend creates more employment if governments opt for bike infrastructure.

Something that we are beginning to hear is about how the quality of life has a benefit to property values. One US example of this is that a home close to the Monon bike trail in Indianapolis is worth 11% more than a home only half a mile away. It isn’t surprising is it? Street that accommodate all users, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users, and not just car users, mean less traffic congestion and less pollution and a better quality of life, leading to higher property values, for homes as well as commercial property.

Want a mortgage? Get a bike instead of a car!

I wonder whether this US statistic is also valid over here: the top reason for people not getting a mortgage application approved is the high cost of car ownership, making people a bad credit risk. The US equivalent of our AA, the AAA, estimates the annual cost of car ownership at $9000, and the AA here publishes comparable data, complete with different estimates for car sizes. A while back the RAC came out with an average annual cost of £7000 p.a. so not that different from the US value, especially since the pound has slumped since Brexit.


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