There IS a Bicycle Economy, Two Cities Find

two cities find thriving bike economy
©. April Streeter

© April Streeter

Portland, Oregon and New York City, two very different cities, are finding something similar about cyclists and pedestrians - they tend to spend a bit more money in local economies.

Transportation Alternatives has been promoting the 'bicycle economy' in New York's East Village, finding that:

“Streets that promote bicycling and walking mean more business for local shops and restaurants,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives (TA). “When it comes to the impact bike lanes have on local businesses, it’s a case of ‘if you build it, they will come."

In the East Village, putting in new bikes lanes has lead to an increase in cycling, with nearly a quarter of residents reporting biking for their transportation needs. Altogether, 95% of retail dollars in the area that Transportation Alternatives studied were spent by cyclists, pedestrians, and public transport users.

That's perhaps not a completely surprising find, as in the dense East Village, most people are cyclists, pedestrians, and public transport users, rather than car drivers. Yet it is important to counteract that ingrained perception that car-based business is 'better'. Transportation Alternatives found that of the four different mobility groups, cyclists and peds spent the most (when looking at weekly spending).

Bikes portland

Flickr/CC BY 3.0

People on bike and foot spent the most per capita per week, $163 and $158, respectively, at
local businesses. Car and subway users spend less per capita, $143 and $111, respectively, according to TA.

In Portland, Oregon, a less dense city, researcher Kelly Clifton found a slightly different yet also persuasive case that over time, pedestrians and cyclists spend more than their car-driving brethren.

Clifton and her team collected surveys at 89 spots in Portland, finding out how much money people spent, how often they visited, and how far they traveled to get there. The majority of people, it should be said, still arrived at the different locations by car.

And looking at single visits, car drivers spent more at supermarkets and restaurants than the other transport modes. Yet it turns out that walkers, bikers, and public transport takers visit the locations more frequently, and thus, over the space of a month, spent more.

At convenience and supermarkets, walkers spent more. At bars and restaurants, bikers and transit users were neck and neck on spending, in both cases ahead of car drivers.

This is good news for planners trying to keep local business vibrant.

As Clifton puts it in the report on the research:

"Cyclists are greater spenders on average...Patrons who arrive by automobile do not necessarily convey greater monetary benefits to businesses than bicyclists, transit users, or pedestrians. This finding is contrary to what business owners often believe." - Business Cycles, Catering to the Bicycling Market