By Jeff Spross
August 15, 2013
Businesses often fret that installing bike lanes on their streets will cut down customer traffic, but a new study published at Seattle Transit Blog found no evidence to back up that worry.
One way to fight climate change is by encouraging non-carbon-based modes of transportation — like building public spaces that are friendly to bike travel. But “merchants have a perception that customers primarily access their business by car,” as the study notes, and that removing car infrastructure will hurt their revenues. The conflict has played out over bike lane installations in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City— especially when the lanes involve removing street parking spaces.
So Kyle Rowe, the study’s author, looked at two case studies in Seattle. The first was the redesign of Greenwood Ave. in the fourth quarter of 2010. The road was changed from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction, plus a center turn lane and a bike lane. Rowe collected the taxable retail sales data for the six-block business district that lies at the southern stretch of the bike lane project. For control comparisons, he also collected data from a nearby business district that did not have a bike lane installed (the “Neighborhood Comparison”) and for Northwest Seattle as a whole (the “Neighborhood-Wide Comparison”). Finally, to make sure all three comparisons were apples-to-apples, Rowe used “sales indexing” — dividing the total number of sales from the studied district by the total number of businesses, with all three sharing the same starting value of 100 percent.
The result? The construction of the bike lanes had no discernible impact on the Greenwood Ave. district’s sales versus the other areas.