Are bike lanes good for retail?
Retailers in Miami, San Diego and Cambridge, MA, have joined those in other cities in recent years complaining about the addition of protected bike lanes, although studies show they eventually drive shopper traffic.
The bike lanes are designed to make it safer for cyclists and scooters to get around and are generally pitched as positive socially, environmentally and business-wise for communities.
“Studies show that complete streets equipped with features that make travel safer for pedestrians and bike riders are good for business, public safety and quality of life,” Dave Rolland, deputy director of communications in the office of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria recently told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The mayor is also committed to meeting the ambitious goals in the city’s climate action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and decreasing car trips and increasing bike trips is a major part of hitting those goals.”
Bike lanes have been found to boost local sales across San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and other U.S. cities with several studies confirming their impact.
In a Bloomberg article, David Zipper, a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said he has found local business owners often underestimate the share of their customers who arrive by walking, biking or using mass transit because they drive everywhere. Similar complaints are often heard around converting parking spaces to outdoor eating or walking spaces.
Nonetheless, articles about local business owners protesting the loss of walk-in traffic often follow the arrival of bike lanes. In Massachusetts, a group of Cambridge businesses are suing the city over the changes.
Lee Jenkins, owner of Cambridge’s Violette Bakery, told Cambridge Day, “We believe improved bike lane access to be an excellent goal, but not when the parking for business customers and staff, as well as for neighborhood residents and patients of local medical providers is being completely gutted.”
Store owners also often claim the loss of parking spots makes it hard for delivery trucks to drop off orders without causing traffic jams. In many cases, residents, the elderly and disabled advocates also complain about losing parking spots.
- Downtown Miami store owners say new bike lanes decrease walk-in business – WSVN
- Note to Store Owners: Not All Holiday Shoppers Drive – Bloomberg
- The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes – Bloomberg
- Bike Lanes Can Benefit Local Businesses (!), According to This Study – Bicycling.com
- Yet Another Study Shows That Bike Lanes Boost Business – Treehugger
- New bike lanes rile San Diego residents, leaving many to ask: Are they worth it? – San Diego Union-Tribune
- Porter Square plan for new bike lanes moves ahead without delay – WBUR.org
- Group files lawsuit over Cycling Safety Ordinance, telling city to ‘rescind, restore and prevent’ lanes (updated) – Cambridge Day
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How confident are you that bike lanes elevate retail traffic for local communities even when they replace parking spots? What further steps could municipalities or stores themselves take to rely less on parking spaces outside their front doors?