Are bikes better for business?
Making streets bike-friendly tends to annoy drivers, but what if it turns out to be a big boost for small business?
A survey published in the Seattle Transit blog plotted sales tax revenue before and after a controversial bike project in North Seattle.
The project involved installing a climbing lane, and removing 12 parking spots in the business district at NE 65th and Latona Ave NE.
Despite losing the parking spots, the figures show a huge jump in sales after the project was completed. Sales tax revenues actually increased two and a half times.
Cathy Tuttle, the director of the neighborhood Greenways Project, isn’t ready to give all the credit to the bike lanes, but she says there are plenty of surveys showing that more foot and bike traffic is good for business.
“There are a lot of studies that show that 61 percent of people arrive using something other than a private vehicle, whether that translates into an uptick in business, I’m not so sure,” Tuttle told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “But certainly people do come to business districts by walking, biking, and taking transit.”
Programs like the Greenway Project have pushed, for quite a while, the idea that there is a safe way for bikes, cars and pedestrians to share the same right of way.
But Tuttle said the program wasn’t about not annoying the drivers, it’s to protect those who are walking, pushing strollers, and older people.
“There is still parking on neighborhood streets, but it’s slower traffic and the traffic is slowed by stop signs to prioritize for people who walk and people who bike. The streets are slowed so that cars go no faster than 20 miles per hour, and generally, cars are slowed by narrowing the street or putting in speed humps.”
Tuttle said an elderly person or a child can go out and not feel threatened by cars. They’re still just one of the main arterial streets, but they’re prioritized so that they know cars will stop when they’re crossing the street.
While drivers may consider speed humps and narrower lanes an annoyance because they’re looking for shortcuts, businesses don’t seem to be lamenting the change as much.
“The more you encourage people, that 61 percent that are getting to the commercial core, the small business cores, by walking and biking and by taking transit – the more businesses will thrive.”
Dave Ross contributed to this report.