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Biking + Walking = More Money Spent at Local Businesses

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday October 8th, 2012 | 4 Comments

Promoting bicycling and walking means more business for local shops and restaurants, no matter which coast you happen to be doing the biking and/or walking on.

This is not simply feel-good stuff or anecdotal, it turns out.

In New York, an East Village Shoppers Survey, produced by Transportation Alternatives, concludes that residents and visitors in Manhattan’s East Village “rely heavily on walking, bicycling and public transit to get to and around the neighborhood.”

The study goes on to say that people using these modes of transportation “spend the vast majority of retail dollars, and are increasing in number thanks to the implementation of protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements along First and Second avenues.” These amenities are popular with residents and visitors, it adds, “and encourage more women to ride bikes, or feel inclined to do so.”

TransAlt recommended that local business owners and the New York City Department of Transportation continue to support the expansion of New York City’s bike network, including “a more robust network of protected bike lanes and bike parking.”

The study is a snapshot of the travel and spending patterns of residents and visitors in the East Village. The findings included these points:

  • Aggregate weekly spending by public transit and non-motorized transportation users account for 95 percent of retail dollars spent in the study area.
  • Drivers and motorized transportation users spend only 5 percent of the total retail dollars in the neighborhood.
  • People on bike and foot spend the most per capita per week, $163 and $158, respectively, at local businesses. Car and subway users spend less per capita, $143 and $111, respectively, although the volume of subway riders makes them the second highest total spenders of any transportation mode.
  • People who travel by foot or bike as their usual mode of transportation visit the neighborhood the most often. Sixty-one percent of walkers and 58 percent of bicyclists visit the neighborhood more than five times a week, compared to 44 percent of drivers and 34 percent of subway riders.

“Streets that promote bicycling and walking mean more business for local shops and restaurants,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “When it comes to the impact bike lanes have on local businesses, it’s a case of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ It’s no surprise that in the East Village, which is home to some of the city’s best street safety improvements, bicyclists and pedestrians play a critical role in the local economy.”

Portland, OR is a completely different city and biking situation from the densely populated Manhattan, where most people have to be cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users rather than car drivers just to get around.

Portland is not nearly as crowded; yet bicycling is a major way of life in this most bicycle-friendly of cities. It has a major impact on the city’s economy and infrastructure, according to Portland State University researchers, including Kelly J. Clifton, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

A recent TR News article by Clifton and her team, “Business Cycles, Catering to the Bicycling Market,” found that while car drivers spend more at supermarkets and restaurants than the other transport modes, walkers, bikers, and public transport users visit the locations more frequently, and thus, over the space of a month, spend more.

“Cyclists are greater spenders on average,” Clifton writes. “Patrons who arrive by automobile do not necessarily convey greater monetary benefits to businesses than bicyclists, transit users, or pedestrians. This finding is contrary to what business owners often believe.”

These transcontinental reports go a long way toward dispelling the notion that car-based business is somehow better or more preferable economically. Besides that, if you are walking or biking you are not spending a significant portion of your disposable income on gas, and you are benefiting your health and the environment.

[Image: Bicycle rack Portland by garda via Flickr]


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  • Niobe

    This is great, but the New York comparison doesn’t really make much sense. NY has *always* been a non-car city. Nothing new here.

    What would be much more interesting would be to compare a more ordinary city that recently enabled greater bike infrastructure and to do a before/after comparison.

    For that matter, Portland makes a lot more sense.

  • Domain Admin

    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting. We have what is known as the Cappuccino Strip here in Fremantle, Western Australia where the very powerful cafe owners are strongly in favour of keeping the road dominated by cars even though there is no parking on the strip and hence it is hard to understand why they would want their tables exposed to all the fumes from cars driving by. An environment where people can walk and ride bicycles and interact with those sitting at the tables seems such a more inviting option and one with far great economic value.

    • Anderson

      How bizarre! Especially for a street with no parking. Do they actually give a rational reason?

      We have that same problem in San Francisco, the funny thing is the store owners have mostly changed their minds having seen sales go up 20% or more since bike lanes and bike parking have been installed. So it may work out in the end!

      • http://twitter.com/Aushiker Aushiker

        No rational reason as far as I am aware. Maybe they they think that the “boys” doing bog laps in their cars attracts the girls or something :)