New Study of Toronto Bike Lanes Shows They Are Good for Business and Safety

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ Sunrise in the Bloor Street Bike Lane

Business went up and crashes went down; it seems like a win all round.

Most cities don’t have discussions about bike lanes; they have culture wars. Rachel Quednau writes in Strong Towns about a bike lane battle in Philadelphia:

Like the name-calling between liberals and conservatives that is so common in our country right now, the “bikes vs. cars” conversation accomplishes nothing. If we reframe it, instead, as a conversation about choice and economic prosperity, we stand to gain so much more—bike riders and car drivers alike.

That’s why a report released today in Toronto is so interesting. There has been a bike lane “pilot project” on a major east-west artery, Bloor Street, about which the Mayor said last year:

I’m going to be certainly wanting to see that it’s measured rigorously. If the measurements show overall, taken overall as a whole, this was bad for neighbourhoods, bad for business . . . then I will be advocating it be taken out.

The report recommends that the bike lanes be retained. They found that the street was safer and more comfortable for everyone, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike:

While currently less than one year of road safety data is available "after" the installation of the bike lanes, preliminary indications show that collision and conflict ("near-miss" collisions) rates have reduced. Based on public opinion surveys, the introduction of bike lanes have significantly increased levels of comfort and safety for both motorists and cyclists. In addition, a strong majority of pedestrians feel their experience walking on Bloor Street with bike lanes installed is about the same or better than it was previously.

But most importantly, the effects on businesses appear to be positive.

Through a door-to-door merchant survey and a pedestrian intercept survey, this study found that most merchants reported an increase in the number of customers, most visitors reported spending more and visiting more frequently, and that vacancy rates are stable.

During the pilot, the City heard from some businesses concerned about impact to their business as a result of the pilot. In order to provide additional insight into the potential effects on local businesses, the City obtained customer spending analysis from Moneris Solutions Corporation, the company with the largest market share of point-of-sale payment processers in Canada. The Moneris data demonstrated that while average per-transaction size has marginally decreased in the pilot area, it is on-trend with other parts of the City. Total customer spending in the Bloor Street pilot area increased more than in the area surrounding the pilot and more than in the Danforth Avenue control area.

But it did increase car travel times and remove parking spaces. And while the cycle traffic increased dramatically on Bloor, it dropped on the parallel bike lane further south. The suburban bike lane opponents will not be without ammunition, and the local right wing tabloid is already saying that the fix was in for the economic studies.

But wait, the mayor has come out in support. So these bike lanes might actually survive; even he is having trouble arguing with what is clearly a good news story.

It has been pretty much been proven true everywhere: when you separate bikes from cars everybody wins, not just in the road, the bike lane and the sidewalk, but also in the businesses around them. But we have not heard from the suburban politicians yet....