“How America Can Bike and Grow Rich” – Why Bicyclists Are Better Customers Than Drivers for Local Business

The following excerpts come from this Washington DC blog


It begins with this picture of the Monan Trail in which the caption reads:
“It may not have sand and crashing waves, but the Monon Trail is the equivalent of beachfront property in the Indianapolis area.” 

In fact, you can hear the man who used to regularly say this to me, main Monan creator, Mr Greenway, Ray Irvin, in this  podcast he and I did together.

More from the article:

Far and away, the biggest reason business owners resist the addition of bike infrastructure is that they’re afraid it will limit parking. Once they realize they can get 12 bike parking spaces for each car spot, sometimes they begin to change their tune.


Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster understands the value of bikes: “I see parts of the city on my bike that I would never even notice if I was just driving,” he said. “It’s a way for me personally to get closer to the city.”

That closeness has a dollars-and-cents value. Cyclists travel at what Portland Bike Coordinator Roger Geller calls a “human-scale speed” that allows them to “stop and buy something.” Besides, Economides said, if you’re car-free you’ve got an extra 4,531.04€ jangling around in your pocket that you otherwise would have spent on gas and car maintenance (actually, 6,627.4€ if you believe AAA). According to researchers with Intelligent Communities, a program of the National Building Museum, only 16 percent of household car expenses stay within the local economy.


“Open Streets,” or ciclovias – events where streets are closed to motorized traffic and become the domain of bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, rollerbladers, jugglers, dog-walkers – are another way to bring money to local businesses. Washington University in St. Louis was able to quantify the economic benefit of Open Streets programs: 73 percent of Open Streets participants spent money at a restaurant or store on the route, and 68 percent became aware of a restaurant or store that was new to them.


After all, in downtowns turning car lanes over to people can be a great moneymaker. Its most stunning success, perhaps, has been Times Square, “the ultimate end vision of how to pedestrianize the most pedestrian-heavy place in America,” according to Mike Lydon of the Street Plans Collaborative. According to a recent study commissioned by the local BID, Times Square helps generate more than one-tenth of the city’s economic activity– on less than one percent of its land.


“Bicycling, just like walking, helps make a Main Street more vibrant,” said Economides. “It adds more eyes and ears to the street, so it makes it safer. So think about a mom pushing a stroller. She’s going to want to walk down a block that has more people walking and bicycling; she’ll feel safer. And you do want to attract women and moms. We’re a pretty important shopping base.”

Rory Robinson of the National Park Service found many other examples of bicycling spurring economic revitalization, like the opening of the Mineral Belt Trail in Leadville, Colorado, which led to a 19 percent increase in sales tax revenues, helping the city recover from a mine closure in 1999. The 45-mile long Washington & Old Dominion Trail in the D.C. suburbs brings an estimated 5.29€ million into the northern Virginia economy, nearly a quarter of that from out-of-towners. And downtown Dunedin, Florida was suffering a 35 percent storefront vacancy rate until an abandoned CSX railroad track became the Pinellas Trail. Storefront occupancy is now 100 percent, Robinson found. “Business is booming.”

And as I’ve already shown you:

Add to that the fact that bike lane construction creates about twice as many jobs as road-building for the same amount of money, and you’ve got yourself a great economic argument to take to local leaders and politicians when you ask them to support walking and biking – even (or especially) in tough economic times.

I will be plugging these factoids into the Power Point for the Google Map API I began in 2007. They will help justify investment in the business plan I will be calling attention to with “How America Can Bike and Grow Rich” and  my upcoming Eagle/Busycle ride across America. 

   THX 4 all of U!! 




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