A recent report from the New York City Department of Transportation found significant evidence of the economic benefits of bike infrastructure, too. According to the NYC DOT, retail sales on Ninth Avenue are up 49 percent since the street’s protected bike lanes were installed – that’s 16 times the area growth rate. And on First and Second Avenues, where cycling is up 177 percent thanks to new cycle tracks, commercial vacancies are 47 percent lower than the rest of the area.
And painted lanes aren’t the only type of bike facilities that are proving lucrative for businesses. In Washington, DC, the Capital Bikeshare system has won widespread support and ridership, with more than 18,000 annual members and 225,000 casual riders. That’s good news for businesses close to the nearly 200 stations. According to a recent survey, 83 percent of Capital Bikeshare users said they were more likely to shop somewhere close to a bike share station.
Those types of amenities are now influencing where new businesses set up shop. Just ask Lauren Lilly, owner of Yellow 108, which sells sustainable headwear and accessories. Originally, Lilly intended to locate in Los Angeles but shifted her focus to nearby Long Beach when she learned of the city’s investment in bike infrastructure. “We chose to move our office and store to a great building on the bike lane on Third Street because our core demographic would be passing by regularly,” she said.
Even city officials and transportation planners are recognizing that the small cost of bike infrastructure provides a big payoff for taxpayers and business owners. While the price tag on a bike lane is a fraction of the cost of a single mile of freeway, researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute found that building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates nearly 50 percent more jobs than road-only projects. And that’s just the beginning of the equation.
A recent study from North Carolina’s Outer Banks showed that the one-time investment of $6.7 million for a network of bike lanes has yielded an annual nine-to-one return thanks to increased bicycle tourism. According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), Portland, OR, is just beginning to see the swell of benefits from its 300-mile (500-kilometer) bicycle network. Based on fuel savings and health care costs, RTC estimates that by 2040, the $57 million investment will generate net benefits of $1.2 billion, more than eight dollars for each dollar spent.
Bicycles Appeal to the Next Generation
Using little more than chalk, cardboard, and plastic cones, Jason Roberts did in six hours what traditional tactics couldn’t do for decades. In partnership with local advocates and city officials, the founder of Team Better Block, a consulting firm that creates temporary demonstrations of complete streets, visited Tulsa, OK, with the challenge of jump-starting the economic engine of long-struggling Whittier Square.
Roberts’ tools were cheap and commonplace: crosswalks marked with white tape and bike lanes delineated by cardboard. Cones and angled parking took the busy thoroughfare down to two lanes.
And suddenly, everything changed.