Monday, March 10, 2014

Bikes Mean Business

Most people know that walking and cycling is good for their health and the environment. When advocating for building accessible communities, environmental and health benefits are usually cited as the main reasons why we should be shifting towards building more pedestrian-oriented communities. Besides health and environmental benefits, there are also economic benefits.

Accessible communities are places where knowledge workers prefer to live. These people bring high-tech business which is good for local economies. What gets little attention is that walking and cycling-friendly communities are better for local business than auto-oriented communities.

Back in 2010, South Fraser OnTrax did some research in support of the building a walkable Jericho neighbourhood. We went to a major grocery retailer that has both auto-oriented and pedestrian-oriented stores. We were told that in their pedestrian-oriented stores customers purchased less each shopping visit, but shopped more frequently. These stores were getting more money per shopper. In fact the major grocery retailer told us that revenue generated in their smaller size, pedestrian-oriented stores were equal to or better than their larger, auto-oriented stores.

Last Friday, the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition released a report titled “Bikes Mean Business”. While the report was focused on Downtown Victoria, it supported our earlier finding that active transportation is good for business. Pedestrians and cyclists tend to frequent stores more often than motorists.

The report’s authors surveyed Downtown Victoria businesses and found that business owners under-estimated the amount of people that visiting their stores by walking, cycling, and transit. They also over-estimated the amount of people that visited their stores by driving. This disconnect is present in other downtowns, including Vancouver, were businesses were initially very concerned when bike lanes and bike parking replaced car lanes and car parking. This even happened in Downtown Langley.

McBurney Lane caused great concern to local business because some parking was replaced to provide a better public realm, creating a more accessible downtown core. Given the fact that Downtown Langley is surrounded by higher-density development, the City of Langley and Downtown Langley BIA should be doing all it can to promote walking and cycling. Unfortunately many on council and some business owners do not realize the tremendous economic benefit that comes from building an accessible community that prioritizes walking, cycling, and transit; they still are focused on cars.

While Bike Mean Business is focused on Victoria, its recommendation to support cycling and other active transportation infrastructure can be applied to other communities including in Langley.

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