shopping on bicycle
Bikes don’t scare off customers

Another study has found that building better bike infrastructure through shopping districts does not result in economic damage to local traders.

Mostly it is actually the other way around: business rises sharply for many merchants.

The National Street Improvements Study was conducted by Portland State University researched the economic effects of bicycle infrastructure on 14 corridors across six cities in the United States — Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Memphis, Minneapolis and Indianapolis.

See the full study here.

The study found that improvements such as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure had either positive or non-significant impacts on the local economy as measured through sales and employment.

For years, commercial operators along shopping streets have invariably opposed various bike infrastructure projects, warning—on the basis of no evidence—that more bikes and less car parking would doom their enterprises.

Related: An unfounded obsession with car parks

During those years such opposition has been overcome in enough cases for evidence to become available, and it is positive for bike riders, and for the traders.

"To make cities more liveable and in response to growing concerns over climate change and rising social inequality, cities across the country are promoting active transportation, and advocates are arguing for robust bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure,” the report says.

"While studies have shown how such upgrades improve traffic safety, quality of life, and mobility for city residents, the question remains how such infrastructure improvements affect economic outcomes.

"This study provides policymakers and planners with a robust analytical framework and evidence to support non-motorized transportation infrastructure investment.

"Overall, the study found very little evidence of active transportation street improvements having a negative impact on business or economic outcomes. In many cases, improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure was shown to have positive impacts on sales and employment in the retail and food service sectors.”

Key findings were:
  • Street improvements had either positive or non-significant impacts on corridor employment and sales.
  • The food service industry seems to benefit the most from the addition of active transportation infrastructure. Even in cases where a motor vehicle travel lane or parking was removed to make room for a bike lane, food sales and employment tended to go up.
  • The retail sector benefits somewhat from the addition of active transportation infrastructure.

“This study is an important resource to help cities make the case for building more bicycle infrastructure,” said Zoe Kircos, of PeopleForBikes.

‘We know that connected networks are key to encouraging more people to ride, and now the data shows that economic vitality often follows those investments."