Bike lanes led to 49% increase in retail sales

Back in November 2012, the New York Department of Transportation released a report called Measuring the Street: New Metrics for the 21st Century, which had some compelling figures on the way that local business benefits from bike-lanes, for the fairly obvious reason that cyclists find it easy to stop and shop, as compared to drivers, who are more likely to continue on to a mall with a big parking lot, or shop online.

In many ways, these data come as no surprise. We know that when towns invest in bicycle infrastructure, people will ride more — the number of people traveling by bicycle increases when there is infrastructure to make traveling by bike safe and easy.

We also know that people who travel along a street by bicycle have fewer barriers to stopping at a local business than people who travel along the same street by car. It's very easy to hop off a bicycle and find a place to secure the bike; not so with finding parking for an automobile. In fact, a recent study suggest that bicycle riders tend to spend more at local businesses over the course of a month.

This new study makes it clear: investing in bicycle improvements boosts small businesses. And what town or city doesn't want to boost activity at local businesses?

NYC Study Finds Protected Bicycle Lanes Boost Local Business (via Kottke)


  1. Awesome. Awesome. More, please. More, more, more…

    Or did an increase in retail sales on this street correspond with a decrease in sales at suburban box malls? Expect to read about protests against “urban elites” soon.

    1.  “Decline of sales at box malls”. Do you think anyone cares? Well, you are right that Fox News might find a way to care.

    2. The decline of malls have been happening for a while now…  keep up. The new “box mall” are “live work play” developments.

      And given the demographic shift, the “urban elite” has a ring of truth. The urban poor are being driven out of cities in droves in the past decade to make way for young, white professionals.  Once married, they tend not to leave the cities now either. They stay and try to make it more their ideal. And the urban poor, become the suburban poor.

    1. A 49% increase in particular pushes the bounds of plausibility. I  suspect bike lanes did help business but I also wonder how well the study controlled for confounders.

  2. My shopping-by-bike experience is mixed — for small items, they are indeed awesome, and I do this. But, one sometimes-overlooked bonus of cars over bikes and transit is the “portable privacy” feature — cars have locking trunks where you can stash valuables while you make other stops.

    Amazingly, no one transportation method does everything perfectly. Stupid entropy.

    1.  One of the things for small shops is that cyclists actually see their local shops. Car drivers too often will take the shortest path to the highway then exit as close as possible to their destination, thus driving past few local shops. Even if they do drive past those shops, they don’t really look at them because of their speed. People don’t shop at stores they don’t know exist.

  3. I’m not convinced this is a “study.” I had a look at the original document. Why isn’t there any discussion on the actual data? How was it measured? Over what period of time? 
    If I’m reading this thing right, it seems to suggest that the document “discusses key approaches to street design projects, and how results CAN be measured.” (Emphasis mine.) Is this just an example of what future metrics COULD look like? In other words, is this not a study at all, but rather an examination of what a study might look like?Another quote from the into: “…this report details the metrics NYCDOT uses to evaluate street projects, and illustrates how measuring results can show progress toward safe, sustainable, livable and economically competitive streets.”

    1. Yup – I’d really like to see some evidence for this but this is strangely ambiguous. I’m not sure if it’s unreferenced factlets or just a guide to possible metrics.

  4. I always hear people fretting over things like rails-to-trails projects.  Their biggest worry is that it will cause an increase in crime (because criminals can’t drive?).  I’ve always wondered if bike paths through residential areas actually cut down on crime because now you have more eyes out there.

    1. It’s generally a thinly veiled fear over “those people” (whoever they may be) going somewhere.

    2. That was literally an argument about not extending Marta out to the west side in Atlanta… that “criminals” (which by criminals, white people in the affluent parts of Cobb County meant black people) would ride Marta out with trashbags and clear out peoples houses and ride back with their new found wealth…. This is literally what those entited assholes argued about an extension of Marta…  Keep in mind, this is the area where both Newt Gingrich and Bob Barr come from. So, there is that.  It was pretty revealing of how racist the West side elite remain in more recent times. I want to say this was in the 80s? 

      1. I remember those arguments, and I remember getting into plenty of arguments with coworkers over how stupid and racist they were (the arguments, not the coworkers… although both might apply).

        1. It was the 80s, right? I didn’t move to the ATL until the very late 90s, so much of this was filtered through the regional news (thanks Monica Kaufman)…. and my childhood mind.

          1. The arguments I remember were some time in the 90s, but they were probably for a different Marta extension.  The “bringing crime to our neighborhood” argument probably came up every time an extension was proposed.

      2. I’ve seen this offered as an argument against commuter rail from Ann Arbor to Detroit in the Ann Arbor “newspaper” website comment sections.  Within the last 2-3 years. 

    3. “Crimes” committed by people who drive cars are just evidence of the over-regulation of ordinary life.

      Crimes committed by people who ride bike and public transit, on the other hand, are to be expected – those people are criminals, after all.

  5. Please note that the photograph is not technically (or not ONLY) a protected bike lane – that’s an example of the “complete street” model, based on integrated parking/driving/bike streets in Holland, the Czech Republic, Austria and elsewhere (often including transit as well, either light rail or bus lanes).

    1. Also, you have a long, painful, expensive drive from 8th Avenue to a mall with a big parking lot.

    1. Partially because people who are healthy enough to ride bicycles as their main form of transportation probably don’t have significant medical bills to pay.

      1.  American argument. 

        For the rest of the world, people who ride to the exclusion of driving have more money because they aren’t pouring their income into the gas tank/mechanic etc.

        1. That works in the States, too. I can’t imagine what my finances would look like if I drove.

        2. Not paying insurance, gas, mechanic etc. is a big savings but there are other costs that every cyclist knows about. Shopping for example. We can only buy what we can carry so we lose out on the savings that drivers get by buying large items in bulk. One of my jobs is too far (and unsafe) to bike to commute to and is under served by transit (in early morning hours) so I have to spend a lot of money on cab fare.

          Wouldn’t have it any other way though.

        3. Yes, sorry — my comment definitely comes from an American perspective. The original post is about a study of bike lanes in NYC, though.

        4. In California I also get money from my employer for not driving to work and needing parking and using public transportation instead.

      2. Because people don’t have to be moderately healthy to walk as their main form of transportation? And don’t have to be lucky to have short distances, bus service, or a car?

  6. So translation:

    Something might have happened after we did something but we don’t have the data and even if we did it was probably just a coincidence anyway. 

    1. A coincidence that seems to happen every time streets are reclaimed for bikes and pedestrians. 

      1. So strange, isn’t it – everyone knows that losing even one parking spot will bankrupt every business within two or three  blocks, and yet this weird, impossible-to-predict coincidence keeps happening. 

  7. City Councils and Lawmakers in France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany etc.:
    Lets open the inner city to bicycles and invest in bicycle improvement because it  reduces pollution, improves health, lowers excessive noise levels and reduces traffic related injuries.

    US city councils and lawmakers: Bicycles? Are we living in communist China, or what … wait a minute … Money, you say? Yes lets make some bike lanes!

  8. Another big possibility is electric bikes. The USA seriously needs some sense here to promote unregistered, unregulated, low power, standardised electric-assist bikes. Having different laws in every state and city and trying to make them high power compared with the rest of the world is holding back sales.

    The kind of designs in the picture may be great if you can build the road infrastructure from scratch. Or where there’s plenty of space. But try doing that in London or NYC. Instead you’ll get the madness of bike lanes sharing road space with parked cars and bus lanes.

      1. Quite. And mostly because NYC can’t work out what is a low powered, electric assist bicycle that can be unregistered and unregulated just as if it’s a bicycle. 

        The bike in the picture in that article may have pedals but it’s a scooter, not an E-Bike and should be registered and regulated like a scooter or M/C.

    1. Your last sentence is virtually every bike lane in Minneapolis, and we’re consistently in the top rankings for cycling cities.

      someone who just got hit by a car because I share a road with those monsters.

      1.  No: yo got hit by a car because either you or the car driver (or likely both) made a mistake. You’d increase your chances of riding safely next time by giving some thought to what actually happened, instead of wasting time repeating clichés.

          1. Ah yes, the old “colloquial speech means you deserved to get hit by a car” case. Glad you rested it; let it rest for a very long time.

          2.  Yes in his bike lane. The bike lane that cars are supposed to stay out of.

            Trolling guy is trolling.

          3. Moderator note: And we are not amused. The word “bicycle” is not a license to troll.

      2.  This happened to a friend of mine years ago in… I forget which city, but somewhere in Cali. Fucked up his leg good for quite a while.

        1. It’s pretty much a fact of life for full-time cyclists. It’s kind of funny to see the disparity between the reactions of fellow cyclists and the reactions of people who drive when I tell people how I ended up in a cast. The latter are usually stunned,  often to literal disbelief, as in “nu-uh, what really happened?” The former give some variant of  “sucks” followed by “were you wearing helmet?,” “how long’s the cast on?” or, “how’s the bike?”

          1.  I drive, so I try to be aware of bike riders around me (we have a fair amount and pretty shit bike lanes). Especialy after my friend’s accident. I know how much damage I could do in what would otherwise be a fender-bender with another car. Same with pedestrians.

            I will say I cuss just as loud when they break the rules of the road, though.  Of course, I don’t see that as an excuse to hit them with my car, or imagine that makes them any worse than the people in cars or on foot… Just another thing to be aware of and take into consideration when I’m driving.

    2. You realize the “kind of design in the picture” is a photograph of NYC right? There is space to do this in pretty much every north american city. 

  9. Based on my lifelong experience in the Netherlands, I’m convinced that bike lanes are also conductive to a significant decrease in the prevalence of obesity and an increase in calf musculature (citation needed).

    1.  Even more, I am convinced that bike lanes are also conductive to the significantly lower levels of teen pregnancy in the Netherlands.

    2. In addition, we must find some correlation or non-correlation to Bike Lanes and the fact that both UEFA finals teams are not Dutch.

    1.  Bike lanes mostly increase the local authorities’ and other interested parties’ need to fudge numbers to show “increased readership” and other colurful and implausible benefits to justify the squandering.

    2. At the risk of adding any fuel to the tiny fire that started with your comment, I think the solution these studies should suggest is a change in attitude regarding ‘ownership of the road’ on the parts of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

      1. What do you mean? Roads were made for cars; that’s how it’s been for thousands of years.

          1. You might want to recalibrate your sarcasmdar. 

            List of things I don’t expect you to have noticed but which prove I’m not just saying “i trolled u lol” after being disproven: I’m downthread complaining about recently getting hit by a car and being a cyclist in Minneapolis, and I’m working on my bike in my avatar.

          2. according to Mr. Baronsamedi, you are the text book definition of an “entitled douchebag” and what is wrong with America today, what with your broke leg and all… Shame on you.  Next time use sarcasm marks and STOP HATING ON AMURICA!!!! /sarcasm

      2.  So bike lanes are “dangerous” because when they exist more cyclists use them than they do other unstudied routes.

  10. bike lanes also encourage the rise of smug entitled douche bags who believe the entire city is the Tour de France don’t give a damn about pedestrians

    1. To be fair, if one is a smug, entitled douchebag, they will be so whether on foot, on a bike, on a moped or in a cars. I’ve dealt with all combination of these and none of them are fun.

      1.  Yes, but bike lanes are the only urban infrastructure I can think of which has the message “if you’re on a bike you’re allowed to be a douchebag here” built in as a feature.

        1. Well, please tell that to people in either luxury cars or SUVs, who think because their cars are more expensive or bigger than mine, they own the road. The intown streets help facilitate their douchiness… or the interstates, for that matter.

          I don’t know… I think the douchiness has less to do with the mode of transportation, or the infrastructure that facilitates that and more to do with the individual using it. Some people are just douches. Hell, I’ve even seen pedestrians be douches – “oh, I’m just going to wander out into the middle of the street right now, because I own it… lol, look, there is no crosswalk and those cars have to  slam on their brakes to avoid vehicular homicide!! What jackasses, how dare they drive on a place designed for driving”.  Some people just think they are entitled to do whatever because they exist.

          1. Douchebag pampering may be a feature of luxury cars and SUVs, but it is certainly not a feature of the road system, whatever else you may think about it.

            A douchebag pampering infrastructure would be… a “Luxury car lane” or a “SUV lane”. *That* would in fact legitimize and foster the sense of entitlement of the Luxury / SUV idiots, and probably turn into idiots some Luxury/SUV drivers that weren’t idiots to begin with.

            With is exactly the main social and psychological effect of bike lanes on bicycle users and their environments.

            Because increased cyclists’ safety, as Ian Brett Cooper pointed out above, is certainly not one of them, whatever these funky “studies” try to portray.

          2. I think the current highway infrastructure does include certain kind of douchebag pampering, one that has privileged the white middle class over everyone else… here in Hot’lanta, the downtown connector was literally built right over the African-American part of town – it cuts across the famed Auburn Avenue. It literally privileged one group of people over another, by it’s very existence. Where the highways would go was a heated debate in the planning stages. It could have  swung out to the west side, but that would have cut right across white neighborhoods at the time (I think they were some white, working class neighborhoods, but I think some well-heeled neighborhoods as well). So, now it cuts through what used to be part of Auburn neighborhood and more pointedly the Old Fourth Ward, what was the biggest working class black neighborhood in the city. The neighborhood is still there, but in truncated form.

            Don’t even get me started on Atlantic Station that replaced Techwood homes…

            The way our cities are built are not free of ideological considerations, they are full of them, reinforcing them… Bike lanes may cater to douchebags, but it’s the same sort of catering that the  highway system already codified – the privileging of middle class, white elites. A privilege that I enjoy as a middle class, white, suburban dweller…

            At least that’s what my friends who study the built environment tell me.

        2. car lanes seem to provide a similar message to drivers, who are much more of a threat than all 200 pounds of me and my bike.

          1. Car drivers must be by now one of the most slandered collective in the western world. And car driver bashing is one of the hallmarks or modern cyclist douchebaggery.

          2.  Haven’t cars been far more  destructive in modern life than bikes? I’m not suggesting we all stop driving, but how many people die in car accidents a year? Last year it was over 25,000:


            That doens’t even get into environmental destruction and obesity rates, etc. Plus, the way it can destroy the interconnectedness of local communities by making them non-existent.

            I’m not saying bike riders can’t be douches, but that car drivers can be dangerous to others. Even my little car is a bigger threat to Tre than he is to a pedestrian. He could fuck up the guy walking, no doubt, but I could kill him if I’m not careful…

            Sorry, Tre, I promise I don’t want to drive over you. I’m all for sharing the road!

          3. Driving a car is one of the hallmarks of contributing to the catastrophic end of the earth, so I’m ok if the alternative is to be considered a douchebag by a cage-pusher.

        3.  You obviously have a problem with very notion of traveling by bicycle. Maybe you need to go see a therapist about that angry little man syndrome.

        1.  Stop wandering into the bike lane while you’re talking on your cell phone and you’ll be ok.

          1.  I pay attention while walking I do not wander, tell the cyclists not to speed, to pay attention, and not be on the phone

    2.  Awww give this guy a blankie to hold while he thoughtlessly steps into the bike lane and the path of oncoming cyclists.

  11. I live in NYC and I’m a dedicated pedestrian, I walk to walk and back and have to deal with smart phone zombies, bad car drivers, commercial cyclists and those cyclists who are doing there part for the environment by terrorizing pedestrians. Also I’ve seen my share of people who don’t understand what a bike path is for and seen those break dancing crews block up the path at Times square. So everybody has to do their part

    1.  I think walking is the best if you can do it, actually. Not everyone has that luxury, I think. See my comment above about the demographic shifts in the urban landscape…

      1. I don’t think that ‘small’ and ‘walkable’ are required to go together. Well, depends on how far you’re willing to walk. 15-20 miles, one-way? I’m all for it. As long as you didn’t expect me any particular time. :-)

        1.  Not at all, but it helps, of course. Being able to walk a mile or two vs. 15 or 20, in an environment that facilitates walking (sidewalks, cross walks, lower speeds in areas where people do walk) for immediate needs makes it far more likely people will do so. Given the time constraints on many of our lives, most of us don’t have the free time to spend walking the longer distance, I’m afraid.

      2.  Walking, biking and transit should compliment each other. It’s the favoring of individual automobiles that’s the turd in the punchbowl.

        1.  Oh, I agree with that. No doubt. Favoring the automobile has been rather destructive. There was an active campaign in the… what was it, the 20s or 30s, to eliminate the light rail to favor gasoline vehicles.

    2.  If only the rest of NYC citizens were as perfect as you!  You must be a joy to be around.

      1. guilty conscious ?
        Can’t come up with a good argument other than a personal attack ?

        1.  You haven’t made an argument. You’ve rattled off a series of anecdotal whines that make it look like you think your entire city is out to get you. Sad.

          1. and you are the spokesperson for the city ?
            You must be a joy to be around I’m sure the life of the party as you look down on us lowly people

  12. This study from NYC DOT contains no raw numbers. Their conclusion is that the cyclepath change to the street is responsible for increased sales in the area. There were multiple changes made to the streetscape – there is no way to tell what was responsible for change in sales. The speed limit was also lowered. It is also impossible to know whether this change in sales is short-term.

    What we do know is that protected cycling infrastructure moves car-bike conflicts and collisions out to the boundaries of that infrastructure. There is not clear evidence that this infrastructure reduces conflicts, collisions, or injuries.

    One change that does have clear evidence of reducing injuries and severity of injuries is reducing speed limits and enforcement of the speed limits. That benefit applies to both bicycle riders and pedestrians. 

    1. And indeed there have been a couple of before/after studies over in Europe where they discovered that bike lanes actually increased accidents and death rates, mostly due to inevitable intersections (if you separate traffic you have to join it at some point, which is usually the most dangerous part), just like you suggest.

      Bike lanes are great for increasing ridership though because they tend to give people a subjective (and often false) feeling of being ‘safe.’ Which is why politicians love them: visible signs of ‘doing stuff,’ being eco-friendly and what not.

      1.  You could also argue then that increased accidents are due to increased numbers of riders, surely?

        1. You certainly could. If you see a study or report that doesn’t control for that I’d suggest you run away from it as fast as you can because it’s bound to be bullshit. You gotta look at relative numbers and accident rates.

  13. 49% increase does seem quite high. The impact study done in Vancouver showed most of the routes looked at had less 5% difference- effectively none- with the exception to that having gone down 11%. Oddly, the street that went down had nowhere to park before the seperated lane went in anyway.

    1.  Manhattan is an island in many ways that make it incomparable.

      If you make a place in NYC, particularly Manhattan, (more) pleasant to be, (more) pleasant to walk or ride or in any way something more than taxis and private cars whizzing alongside wide but still inadequate sidewalks the resulting swell of foot traffic can be enormous.

      Most other places in NA don’t have near the densities needed to see the kinds of wham-pow differences a major infrastructure reno can make.

      1. Yes, but most attempts to argue against bike lane projects often use the “it will destroy local businesses” argument. Whether the huge increase is solely due to the bike lanes or whether that kind of increase would happen anywhere else, it shows that bike traffic can be a boon to business, not a hindrance.

  14. For the record, it’s fine. I was already satisfied with my purchase before the accident, but there’s barely a scratch or a ding on it. Critical Cycles’ fixed gear model stands the *true* test of an urban bicycle. 

  15. Am I the first person to notice that the info graphic is suggesting cars would make a left turn onto a road that is one-way moving left to right? A left turn would be illegal.

  16.  I, on my part, thought that the blanket use of the word “troll” to suppress dissent was due to intellectual laziness and ideological hard-ons facilitated by group think and tribal douchebaggery. What I did not expect was to find it so easily triggered here.

    But who am I to complain, seeing that you have removed  in this thread some neatly constructive comments by other people way gentler than me.

  17. I am a legally blink pedestrian. Bike lanes are incredibly dangerous for me. The soundless bikes come from both direction and make no noise that warns me they are coming,

    Also the bikes also use the car lanes, ignoring the traffic laws. They pop out between cars who are stopped for a read light.

    I was run over once, no he didn’t stop. I have felt the air caused by bike movement, very close, numerous times and I have been clipped by handle bars several times.

    I was born and grew up in New York, I came back here to live because there are few places a pedestrian can live and function.

    New York is becoming more and more dangerous for me as bike drivers increase. I would like them to obey traffic laws. I have been told by more than one bike rider I have reprimanded that traffics laws do not apply to bikes.

    I would like to see them wear license plates so that they would know there are traffic laws that apply to them and increase the chance they would follow them.

    1. Although, license plate requirements for cycling are either widely un-enforced, or when they are enforced, push cyclists into cars. And, I don’t think they’ve ever actually been used for traffic enforcement against cyclists.

      Best bet if that’s becoming a serious safety problem is to use red light cameras to detect a cyclist running a light, and then use CCTV to track the cyclist, while scrambling police to the cyclist’s location. Then cite the cyclist. That doesn’t need license plates. Or, just station undercover police at intersections where a high amount of cyclist traffic violations have been reported. (But, in both cases, the police need a lot of training on what’s legal and not for a cyclist to do.)

  18. True story.  

    I was riding my bike and realized I forgot my lock.

    Stopped and had a great sandwich at Baguettabodit  Really.  I stopped there only because they were along a bike lane.  I put my feet up and they brought me my sandwich so I could watch my bike.

    I am not making this up and I have no association with the store.  They just deserve a some good press.

  19. When I’m shopping by bike, I always wear my hi-viz jacket and carry my helmet into the store.  Those are cyclist dollars in your till, Ms. “zomg lost street parking means lost profit”.

Comments are closed.