UPDATE: April wrote about this study in There IS a Bicycle Economy, Two Cities Find
Every time they fight over a bike lane in Toronto, the Mayor and his suburban councillors complain about the poor retailers losing customers along with the parking spaces. They never say "oh boy, more cyclists!"
They should. Emily Badger of the Atlantic Cities reports on a new study by Kelly Clifton of Portland State University that finds that in fact, cyclists in fact spend more money, albeit in smaller chunks, than do those in cars. Badger writes:
True, they often spent less per visit. But cyclists and pedestrians in particular made more frequent trips (by their own estimation) to these restaurants, bars and convenience stores, and those receipts added up. This finding is logical: It’s a lot easier to make an impulse pizza stop if you’re passing by an aromatic restaurant on foot or bike instead of in a passing car at 35 miles an hour. Such frequent visits are part of the walkable culture. Compare European communities – where it's common to hit the bakery, butcher and fish market on the way home from work – to U.S. communities where the weekly drive to Walmart’s supermarket requires an hour of dedicated planning.
The data show that in fact, improving bicycle infrastructure is good for main streets and retailers; the people with cars often go out to the big box stores and malls where the parking is "free" anyways, whereas pedestrians and cyclists stay closer to home. It would seem to make sense that an investment in bikes and pedestrian makes more sense than investment in cars if you want successful and vibrant main streets, but hey, I am in Toronto and she is in Portland.
Read more in the Atlantic Cities.
It's a lesson our bigger retailers are going to have to learn as well. The photo at the top is at downtown Toronto's Mountain Equipment Coop store; you cannot find a place to park your bike and the store is jammed. This photo is their new Barrie store, in a big box plaza at the top of a steep arterial road. Nice bike rack, even a free pump, but not a single bike. The smart retailers with their eye on the young active market are going to soon realize that it is the customers on bikes with the disposable income- they are not spending it on gas and insurance.