Shopping By Bike: Town Centre’s Best Friend


Loads of reports have focussed on the health and environmental benefits of cycling, with results such as health benefits due to reduced mortality amounting to 114-121 billion Euros across the EU, or the benefit of easing congestion adding up to 25 billion Euros; and the employment of 650,000 people in the bike sector being a significant economic factor. These reports are typically at either the pan-European or national level.

Now there is a study by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) which looks at the contribution of cycling to shopping, which is timely as all too often shop keepers and those involved in planning or administration of town centres and Business Improvement Districts fear cycling-friendly transformation thinking that they would lose customers and turnover if more space is given to cyclists and pedestrians, and less space for cars and parking.

At the moment, customers going shopping by bike account for €111 billion in the EU-28, where the figure for the UK with just 1.9% modal share of transport for cycling – is €3.895 billion. If the modal share of cycling was doubled, this would calculate an increase in retail turnover for local retailers of more than €27 billion across Europe, and €1.652 in the UK.

Local case studies from Europe and elsewhere show that clients coming by bike spend more than those coming by car, whether measured over a given time period or related to the parking space that has to be provided for them: car drivers might spend more per visit, but they visit less often.

Cyclists do their shopping locally and are more loyal customers.

In Bristol, retailers overestimated the share of car-drivers among their customers by almost 100 per cent.

In a survey,retailers believed that 41 per cent of customers would come by car, while the actual figure was only 22 per cent. For cycling, it was the other way round: shopkeepers estimated the share of cyclists among their customers at 6 per cent, while the actual share was 10 per cent. Shopkeepers also overestimated the distances customers would travel to their shops: they thought that only 12 per cent of clients would live less than half a mile from the shop, while the real value was 42 per cent.

In France, a survey in 6 cities found that cyclists spend more money per week in shops than car drivers (24.35 EUR for cyclists, 21.65 EUR for car drivers).

Cyclists spend less money per visit, but visited shops more often.

In Copenhagen, cyclists create more revenue in shops and supermarkets than car drivers (2.05 billion EUR for cyclists, 2.04 billion EUR for car drivers).

In Bern, a consumer survey found that clients coming by bike create €7500 of revenue per square metre of dedicated parking space, while car drivers only brought €6625. This is similar to a study in Davis, California, analysing almost 1900 shopping trips to a new store found that cyclists spend $ 250 per month, car drivers only $ 180.

In Flanders, a Master thesis analysing the transformation of a street, which had previously allocated space predominantly towards cars, and then switched tomore public transport (tram), walking and cycling, came to the conclusion that the customers not coming anymore because of the lack of car parking after the transformation were replaced entirely by clients coming by bike or on foot, and that turnover was slightly higher after the transformation. 81 per cent of the shop owners were satisfied with their turnover.


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