Even if you agree that bike lanes make everyone feel safer and that businesses benefit by being near them, you still may have concerns when installing bike lanes means taking lanes away from parking or travel lanes for cars (otherwise known as a “road diet”). However, University of Washington student Kyle Rowe decided to examine what happened to retail sales in two different neighborhoods in Seattle when bike lanes were installed at the expense of travel lanes for cars or parking. In one neighborhood lanes were simply taken away from cars and bicycle lanes were installed in their place. In another neighborhood, a “climbing lane” was installed (a bike lane on the uphill side of the road, with a shared lane marking or “sharrow” on the downhill side) and 12 parking spots were removed. To determine the impact of these changes on retail sales, Rowe examined taxable retail sales data from the Washington State Department of Revenue.
Despite numerous businesses opposition to the changes, Rowe found that neither project had a negative impact on retail sales in the neighborhood business district. In fact, businesses in the neighborhood that installed the climbing lane showed a 350% increase in sales index two quarters after the project was finished, and a 400% increase in the quarter after that (though Rowe is careful to point out that the increase in sales cannot necessarily be attributed to any changes in transportation).
While this research doesn’t scientifically prove that bike infrastructure improves sales, it shows that we shouldn’t be afraid to have more room for bikes in areas that have typically been designed only for cars.