That’s good news, because a growing body of research shows that people who arrive on two wheels have a bigger impact on the bottom line, too. Recent research out of Portland, OR, showed that cycling customers spent more per month ($75.66) than their car-driving counterparts ($68.56) at bars, restaurants and convenience stores. A 2009 study of Bloor Street in Toronto, ON, found that customers who arrive by foot and bicycle visit the most often and spend the most money per month.
Why do people who arrive on bicycles spend more money? Researchers in Muenster, Germany, suggest that because bicyclists buy smaller quantities and thus shop more frequently, they’re “exposed more often to temptation” – more likely to get extra items that aren’t on the shopping list. So it’s not surprising that a survey of 1,200 consumers in Bern, Switzerland, found that businesses made more profit per square meter of bike parking ($9,900 per year) than car parking ($8,800).
For Birchard getting more bike parking is more than an amenity for bicyclists – it’s a business imperative. “Across the street from me, the coffee shop put in a bike corral, and it’s always full,” he said. “We need many, many more.”
How Businesses Are Cashing In on Bicycles
Jeff Motch wasn’t trying to cater to fellow bike riders when he put a bike in the logo of his business, the Blind Lady Ale House. But as soon as he opened his restaurant in San Diego, CA, his clientele started asking: So what’s the connection to biking?
“Bicycle people were attracted to our place, even though it wasn’t intentional,” Motch said of the logo. “And when you tap into a small, core group like that, word spreads very quickly.”
Motch started offering a 10 percent discount for anyone who arrived by bike and built a large and loyal fan base faster than you can brew a batch of pale ale. On Sunday mornings, Blind Lady is the meeting spot for social rides, like the annual Growler Run, which takes participants to a local brewery. Now, on any given weekend, Motch’s place is packed – and a sizable percentage of patrons are cyclists. “I have 20 or 30 bikes outside my place on a Friday night,” he said.
Increasingly, businesses across the country are trying to tap into the spending power of cyclists. In 2008, the League of American Bicyclists launched its Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) program, setting clear criteria for how employers can encourage cycling among their staff and customers and recognizing companies at the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level for their achievements. From small coffee shops to major corporations, a staggering 480 businesses in the US have earned a BFB designation. Hundreds more have applied.
“Even we couldn’t have expected the incredible interest and buy-in we’ve seen in just a few short years,” says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “Some of the most iconic companies in the country – Facebook, Apple, and General Mills, to name a few – are realizing bikes can boost their bottom line.”
Standing Stone Brewery, in Ashland, OR, is just one of the hundreds of BFBs that have made small bike investments and seen big payoffs. “Working with the City of Ashland to trade a car parking space for bike parking spaces has definitely led to more business,” says manager Danielle Amarotico. “While we paid to fabricate and install the rack, it’s set the stage for customers to realize that we’re bike-friendly and have gone the extra mile to promote cycling in our community.”
Because that rack sits right in front of the restaurant, it’s become a central hub for community bike parking in all of downtown. And that external welcome is just the beginning. Standing Stone also buys a new bike for all of its employees and financially supports local cycling events. “That exposure brings large numbers of locals and visitors in our doors,” Amarotico added.
For Motch, though, it isn’t just about revenue. It’s about making his work meaningful. “What’s been so awesome for us is [being bike-friendly] brings us the kind of person we want coming through our door,” he says. “People who are active – not just active in their lifestyle, but active in their community.”
That sense of engagement has become a draw for new businesses in bicycle-friendly areas. “I never thought I’d leave San Francisco to move back to my hometown; it’s too car-centric for my taste,” said April Economides, the owner of Green Octopus Consulting. “But mine is just one of 25 businesses that have moved to, opened, or expanded in Long Beach in the past three years because of the city’s bicycling progress.”