Taking away lanes for bikes is not bad for business

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.

seattle bike sales index 1

Source: Kyle Rowe

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).

seattle bike sales index 2

Source: Kyle Rowe


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.

Read Rowe’s full report here, and check out what other blogs have to say about this research at StreetsBlog, Transportation Issues Daily, and Climate Progress.

Pump more money into your community, not your gas tank

Love them or hate them, the reality of owning a car means that you are spending a fair amount of money on your vehicle. A recent AAA study concluded that owning a car costs between $6,700 and $11,300 per year, depending on what type of vehicle you own – an increase of nearly 2% from 2011, largely due to increases in the cost of fuel and tires.

Meika Weiss, a blogger at Traversing Tulip Lane recently had an article featured on the Strong Towns blog about where she spends her money after she and her husband went from a two-car to a one-car family. Making this shift saved her family $583 a month, or $7,000 a year. Savings like this clearly benefit your wallet, and likely, your community.

Weiss highlights a passage from a study from CEOs for Cities that outlines how low rates of car ownership benefit New York City’s economy:

“It’s no secret that New York City’s high density, extensive transit and excellent walkability are fundamental contributors to the lifestyle enjoyed by its citizens. However, as this study shows, these factors are also major contributors to their economic well-being. Because New Yorkers drive substantially less than the average American, they realize a staggering $19 billion in savings each year — money that their counterparts in other metro areas spend on auto-related expenses. And because they spend so much less on cars and gasoline—money that quickly leaves the local economy—New Yorkers have much more purchasing power to spend locally, stimulating the city’s economy.”

While it’s easy to highlight the many ways that New York is different from the rest of the country, Weiss stresses that investing in the local economy means that more money is reinvested into the community, no matter where you live.

Weiss notes that you could give up your car and still only patronize national chains. However, she explains that you aren’t likely to do that:

“Your car spending will probably shift to a mix of local and national businesses, and more of your dollars will stay in your community than did before you made this leap. You’ll probably shop at more local businesses than you did before because they’re more accessible and neighborhood-based than their big-box competitors – it’s just plain easier to run into a neighborhood business than it is to traverse the Walmart parking lot (do they make those things nightmares on purpose?) if you’re on foot or on a bike.”

Weiss also points out additional savings such as:

  • decreased health care costs as a result improved health due to more active transportation
  • decreased health care costs as a result of fewer motor vehicle collisions
  • decreased infrastructure costs as a result of needing fewer traffic lanes

Read Meika’s full article here, and if you’re wondering where you can invest in the local community, you can always check out the Pike Central Farmers Market on Saturdays throughout October!