Researchers Say Better Bike Lanes Benefit Cities More Than You Might Think

Business owners could be big winners in the "complete street" movement. Researchers Say Better Bike Lanes Benefit Cities More Than You Might Think Giphy

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Riding a bike instead of taking a vehicle can have lots of pretty obvious benefits, including physical health, reduced emissions, and less traffic. But there’s one major factor that doesn’t get as much attention … and a growing number of city planners say it should

Biking for business

Most modern cities are built around the automobile, meaning cyclists often have to navigate convoluted routes or face potentially dangerous encounters with speeding motorists who share the road.

If more communities invested in dedicated bike lanes, however, researchers have found that it wouldn’t just be the bike riders who benefit.

Contrary to the concerns (as justified as they might be on the surface) of small business owners who lament that increasing bike lanes would mean sacrificing some of their parking spaces, data actually shows that such an investment would, on average, actually increase spending at these very same businesses.

  • A 2013 study in Seattle showed that replacing 12 parking spaces with a bike lane in one district caused sales to quadruple.
  • Another study conducted in New York City found sales in boroughs with better bicycle accessibility increased by as much as 84%.
  • Researcher Jenny Liu saw mixed results in a multi-city 2020 study, but concluded that “certain types of businesses became much more prosperous.”

The “complete street” movement

In the end, business owners tend to overestimate the impact that losing a few parking spaces might have on their bottom line. Research also shows that they often have an exaggerated impression of how many of their customers drive as opposed to either walking or riding a bike to their businesses.

That’s why the push toward more bike lanes and pedestrian spaces (collectively known as the “complete street” model) seems to add a bigger-than-expected boost to businesses.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee March 8th, 2024
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