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Published on October 26th, 2012 | by James Ayre


Bicycling, Transit, & Public Space Initiatives Boost Local Economies & Businesses, New Report Finds

October 26th, 2012 by  

Bike lanes are often the subject of controversy and criticism, and often unrightfully so. New research has shown that, rather than being a waste of money, they help to boost the local economy.


A new report released on Wednesday by New York City’s Transportation Department finds that one clear and perhaps under-the-radar benefit of bicycle lanes, pedestrian plazas, and rapid-transit bus systems is that the businesses that are located near this infrastructure often experience a significant increase in customers.

“These projects are not just about the quality of life or aesthetics,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said in a phone interview. “In case after case, these projects really do set the table for economic development.”

The report was created after analyzing data provided by the Department of Finance, primarily sales figures from small businesses in the areas around the new infrastructure. Apparently, larger chains couldn’t be included in the analysis because they report receipts centrally, rather than by individual location.

“On Ninth Avenue, where the city has installed protected bike lanes, businesses from 23rd Street to 31st Street have seen a 49 percent increase in retail sales, compared with a boroughwide average of 3 percent over the same period, the report said.”

That is a significant increase, and correlates very clearly with the new transit infrastructure.

And where a plaza and protected bike path were put in on the north end of Union Square, there has been a 49 percent drop in commercial vacancies. The borough average for the same period was an increase of 5 percent in commercial vacancies.

“In Brooklyn, where a parking area on Pearl Street was converted into a plaza, retail sales have increased 172 percent for neighboring businesses, compared with 18 percent throughout the borough.”

The report also linked improvements in bus service with economic improvement. There was a 71 percent increase in retail sales along Fordham Road in the Bronx. According to Ms. Sadik-Khan, faster rapid-transit buses and the increased ridership that they’ve brought were most likely bringing more customers to the local businesses.

“Everybody’s got an opinion,” she said, “but we have the data.”

Source: The New York Times
Image Credits: Bike Lanes via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Alvin Skilpad

    The new environmental book, Green Illusions, shows the importance of addressing bicycling as a first step in combating our broader energy and environmental challenges. The author argues that bicycling is a better project to pursue than new energy technologies, which have many negative side effects and limitations.

    Here’s something: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/10-ideas-green-transportation7.htm

    This book also details a hidden “boomerang effect” that is undermining green energy investments.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Bikes make a lot of sense for some people and in some circumstances. They can be an important part of the solution.

      But best we don’t start thinking that we should start working on getting more people to ride bikes and pay less attention to closing coal plants, improving public transportation, making our buildings more
      energy efficient and all the other very important things we need to be doing.

    • I focused on bicycle advocacy and bicycle planning for years. Completely agree that it’s one of the theoretical best solutions. Happy there is fast growth (but not nearly as fast as I’d like).

      That said, biking and solar/wind address diff issues. And solar/wind is the biking of energy generation. While that author might have good intentions, I think he is sorely misguided. But you will get misguided people on both sides of the aisle.

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