Sandy Smith at the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog summarizes the latest study in a growing body of evidence that bike lanes are good for business. The Stu Bykofskys of the world always predict traffic-slowing measures will be doomsday for businesses, but who really thinks designing roads to make it easier for cars to speed past your storefront will boost sales? Sandy makes the critical point that car ownership is expensive, and making it easier for people to forgo car ownership frees up disposable income that can be spent on other goods and services.
Contrary to the stereotype of the bike rider as a feckless twentysomething who spends lots of time, but not much money, in a local coffee shop, researchers with the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium found that bicyclists and pedestrians spent more in total at just about every type of local retail business save one: the supermarket.
The researchers surveyed 1,884 Portlanders who had just visited a convenience store, restaurant or bar, plus another 19,653 on their way out of the supermarket. What they found is that while the respondents who traveled by bike or on foot spent less per visit to each establishment, they made more total visits, boosting their overall spending in each type of business above that of car owners. That supermarkets were the exception to this rule should perhaps come as no surprise: they are geared towards people who make fewer visits but buy much more per visit, a setup that plays to the automobile’s strengths.
It should also come as no surprise, though, that walkers and bike riders came out on top at the other establishments. Owning a car is a significant expense, and those without one have more money to spend on other discretionary items. And by making more small trips as opposed to a few large ones, they also choreograph the urban ballet Jacobs celebrated as a key to both community cohesion and neighborhood safety.
The local angle on all this? We could build on our existing strengths by continuing to push to design our neighborhoods so that cars become less necessary for the essentials of everyday life.