Originally posted in the Monadnock Shopper News
Parking – it’s an issue that many downtown communities face. To many, the answer lies in increasing the number of parking spaces for cars. Some communities, however, are discovering a better answer: increase parking spaces for bicycles.
Not only do bicycles take up less parking space, more and more studies show that bicycling actually boosts revenues at bike-accessible businesses. This is great news for local governments tackling the issue of parking — great news for business owners looking to boost their profits — and great news for those of us who love to bike.
One study in Bern, Switzerland found that businesses made more profit per square meter of bike parking ($9,900 per year) than car parking ($8,800). How can this be? While bicyclists tend to buy smaller amounts than those who arrive by car, they shop more often and spend more each month compared to those who commute by car.
Individual business owners in our region are working to encourage bicycling at their workplace. “We at Filtrine have tried to make wellness a part of our culture. We have had a wellness program for over 20 years,” shared Peter Hansel, President of Filtrine Manufacturing Company based in Keene. “Biking to work contributes not only to the health of the individual but also to the community by reducing traffic, air pollution and fossil fuel consumption. We have a bike rack at our facility and would like to see it more heavily used.”
What’s happening collectively in the Monadnock Region to make biking mean business?
Rack It Up! Program
The Monadnock Region Transportation Management Association (MRTMA), a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals building a sustainable transportation future for the Monadnock Region, launched the Rack It Up! Program this summer. This cost share program partners with businesses and organizations to bring bicycle racks to locations throughout Keene to encourage more bicycling. There were six participants in the first round of the Rack It Up! Program: Monadnock Food Co-op, Savings Bank of Walpole, Southwestern Community Services, Keene Housing, Community Kitchen of Keene and United Church of Christ.
“In downtown Keene, where convenient on-street parking is sometimes scarce, my hope is that Keene’s downtown businesses will embrace the establishment of more bicycle parking,” said J.B. Mack, Principal Planner at Southwest Region Planning Commission. “It offers customers the ultimate convenience to park right in front of stores, and it is a much cheaper and efficient alternative than using scarce real estate for vehicle parking. Many bicycles around town are equipped with storage design solutions and can easily transport their store purchases.”
Learn more about MRTMA and the Rack It Up! Program: monadnocktma.org/.
Bicycle Benefits Program
A national program called Bicycle Benefits encourages more people to commute by bicycle by offering discounts and other incentives to bikers every time they visit a member business. Participants show their Bicycle Benefits sticker affixed to their helmet and instantly receive a reward for biking. Member businesses in Keene include Prime Roast (offering 25 cents off any coffee drink), Brewbaker’s Café (offering 10% off) and The Works (offering 10% off). The Monadnock Food Co-op is in the process of becoming a business member, too. Learn more at bb2.bicyclebenefits.org/.
In addition to the Rack It Up! and Bicycle Benefits Program, there are many more opportunities to make bicycling mean business in our region. Here are some examples:
Bicycle Friendly Business Program
The League of American Bicyclists created the Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) program to recognize businesses that encourage their staff and customers to bicycle. The program provides technical assistance to participants and resources to help promote business accomplishments.
So far, 480 businesses have received the BFB designation but there’s only one BFB in New Hampshire: USDA Forest Service Lab in Durham. Let’s see if, together, we can encourage at least one Monadnock Region business to apply during the next BFB application period. The deadline is January 15, 2015: bikeleague.org/content/businesses/.
Protected Bike Lanes
Creating lanes just for bicycles also means business. According to the New York City Department of Transportation, retail sales on Ninth Avenue increased 49 percent since protected bike lanes were installed. Protected bike lanes use planters, curbs, parked cars to create a buffer between bicyclists and moving cars and instills a greater sense of safety for both bikers and drivers.
Finally, to have bicycling really mean business in our region we need our city and town governments to adopt best-practice cycling policies like Complete Streets, Road Diets and Open Streets. ChangeLab Solutions has an excellent resource called “Getting the Wheels Rolling” describing all these bicycle friendly policies. You can download a copy at http://ow.ly/BybsO.
Are you ready to make bicycling mean business in the Monadnock Region? Talk to your co-workers and the business owners you know about implementing the programs, projects and policies that encourage more of us to bicycle. Let’s get those bike wheels rolling!