In a growing number of communities, retailers are going beyond individual efforts and banding together to find ways to appeal to cyclists. In 2010, Economides oversaw the development of the first Bicycle-Friendly Business District (BFBD) in Long Beach. Put simply, Economides said, a BFBD is a commercial district where merchants encourage people to bike to the area and integrate bikes into their district’s promotions, events and operations. The concept is catching on in other cities, too, including Oakville, ON, and New York City.
After all, being more bicycle-friendly provides solutions to vexing problems like parking. Motch, of the Blind Lady Ale House, suggested a then revolutionary idea to encourage more people to attend the annual street fair in his San Diego business district. Because of limited space and massive crowds, attendees had to park in a distant lot and take a shuttle to the festivities. At first, when Motch suggested offering a bike valet service, his fellow retailers scoffed. How would they find the space? And would people really use it? “I found eight parking spaces I could do it in, set up a bike valet and we had more than 100 bikes,” Motch said. Needless to say, bike valet is now a standard offering at the annual street fairs.
And, while bicycling clearly brings business to retailers, the equation works both ways. In the Long Beach BFBDs, business owners like Proum Ry, owner of Wa Wa Restaurant, have access to an informal bike share. Thanks to the use of the communal bike, Ry is now able to take his business directly to customers, extending his take-out service to delivery, too. “I love the district bike,” he said. “It’s so useful for my business, from making fast and easy deliveries to running business errands. Plus, when business is slow, I take it for a cruise along the beach!”
Investment in Infrastructure Is Investment in the Economy
Nestled along the Vancouver, BC, seawall, with stunning views of the Vancouver Harbor, De Dutch restaurant has more to offer its patrons than delicious pancakes. There’s just one potential problem with the picturesque setting: facing the water, the cozy café has no street storefront, no opportunity for passing motorists to see the restaurant and stop in for brunch. But De Dutch has an even better type of thoroughfare, bringing countless hungry diners right to its door.
The Trans-Canada Trail, a walking and biking path, runs directly in front of De Dutch. With marked bike lanes, secure parking, a bike rental shop, and a seawall built to accommodate herds of cyclists, the area has become a hub of activity. “The trail has done wonders for bringing people down to the local businesses that are on the water,” De Dutch’s general manager, Michael Prince, said. “Local businesses in Vancouver, especially new ones like us, depend on local traffic. People being given a reason to find you and be around your business is gold.”
Vancouver isn’t the only city where business owners are seeing the benefits of bike infrastructure. In San Francisco, a survey found that nearly two-thirds of business owners along the Valencia Street bike lanes thought the facilities had a positive impact on their sales. More than half thought that the bike lanes help area residents spend more locally and more than 40 percent believed they bring new customers into the neighborhood.