(We originally published this Bicycling Means Business article in 2014. Given that parking is still a hot issue for many Main Streets in our region -- and since it’s National Bike Month -- we wanted to update and republish this article.)
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.
The Cost of Parking
One on-street parking space costs on average $3,000 to $4,000 to build. Construct that space in a parking garage and the cost goes up to $15,000 to $20,000. Instead of just one car using that $3,000 - $20,000 space, a dozen bicycles can fit into the same amount of space.
Not only do bicycles take up less parking space (thus reducing infrastructure costs), numerous 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 go by bike.
The Perks of More Bicycling
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). Another report in Portland, Oregon, noted that customers who came by bicycle spent $75 more per month than those who came by car. How can this be? While bicyclists tend to buy smaller amounts than those who arrive by car, these studies found that bicyclists shop more often than those who commute by car.
Add bicycle lanes and other cycling amenities to a community and the impacts multiply. A new protected bicycle lane on Ninth Avenue in New York City resulted in a 49% increase in sales for nearby retailers, compared to a 3% increase borough-wide. After changes on Valencia Street in San Francisco, nearly two-thirds of merchants saw an increase in sales and 60% said that more residents were shopping locally. In addition to the boost in retail sales, another study reported that $1 million invested in bicycle infrastructure grew 11.4 jobs compared to 7.8 jobs for road-only projects.
Bicycling infrastructure can also increase tourism. Cycling tourists tend to be wealthier and, according to studies, choose to stay in smaller towns at locally owned accommodations. Part of the allure for cycling tourists is stopping at craft breweries and unique shops along their ride. Other types of tourists tend to stay and shop at national chains.
How Businesses Are Supporting Bicycling
While business owners in our region work individually to encourage bicycling at their workplace, the Bicycle Mayor of Keene and the Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation (MAST) hope to bring these individual efforts together over the coming years.
Using The League of American Bicyclists “Bicycle Friendly Community” (BFC) program, MAST is working with the City of Keene to increase our city’s ranking from Bronze to Silver. The BFC program offers a roadmap for improving bicycle infrastructure, adopting policy and boosting bicycle education. Keene’s Bronze status reflects some of the important steps our city has taken to accommodate bicyclists such as adopting a Complete Streets Policy in 2015 and creating the Bicycle/Pedestrian Path Advisory Committee. Learn more about MAST’s BFC Subcommittee and how you can participate.
Last year, MAST and other bicycling partners in the region nominated Tiffany Mannion to become Keene’s first Bicycle Mayor through an international program with BYCS in Amsterdam. As Bicycle Mayor, Tiffany is working to promote bicycle friendly businesses with a new program called “Keene on Biking,” a local coalition of businesses that support and promote bicycling in Keene. These businesses provide incentives for customers who come by bicycle to their business. Jessica Day from New Day Massage in Keene offers bicyclists $5 off any massage service. “Arriving sweaty isn't a concern for me,” shared Jessica. “I offer fresh, warm washcloths for those who feel they need to clean up a little before their massage, but a little sweat doesn't bother me, really!”
“A bicycle supports our community holistically, getting folks back and forth to work, making a quick loop of errands downtown both faster and more enjoyably, while making it easier to shop and connect to the fantastic neighborhoods in which we live,” said Bicycle Mayor Tiffany Mannion. “Cyclists generally help our economy by offsetting healthcare costs and supporting our downtown bike shops. But the more subtle impacts are reflected in the countless studies that point to happier, healthier, more punctual and productive business owners and employees. Bicycling is a conscious decision to work and shop and ride largely where you live, sharing the countless benefits of two-wheel travel with your greater community.”
Learn more about the Bicycle Mayor of Keene and the Keene on Biking project.
Increasing sales, lowering health care costs, growing jobs and boosting our happiness -- all by encouraging our neighbors to go by bicycle? Let’s get rolling! Stay tuned for more bicycle updates.