• A recent study found that adding bike lanes boosted business and employment in the food service and retail sectors.
  • Understanding how investments in such improvements impact economic vitality, business activities, and neighborhood equity help justify multi-modal infrastructure investments.

Biking to eat in Minneapolis.

A recent study by researchers at Portland State University examined fourteen corridors in six cities—Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Memphis, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis—and found that new bike and pedestrian improvements had either positive or non-significant impacts on sales and employment.

The study took advantage of recent Complete Streets initiatives and effort to promote community livability with transportation infrastructure upgrades to increase access and mobility for pedestrians and bicyclists through a reduction of on-street parking and traffic lanes. The addition of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure also was intended to address growing concerns over climate change and environmental sustainability as well as rising social inequality.

A frequent argument against bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements is the concern that bike lanes could discourage customers and reduce revenues. The Portland State study sought to address this issue about the impact on the local economy, helping to fill the gap left by other studies that explore traffic safety, quality of life, and mobility outcomes. The results provide policymakers and planners with a robust analytical framework and evidence to support non-motorized transportation infrastructure investment.

The study found that:

  • Street improvements had either positive or non-significant impacts on corridor employment and sales.
  • The food service industry seems to benefit the most from the addition of active transportation infrastructure. Even in cases where a motor vehicle travel lane or parking was removed to make room for a bike lane, food sales and employment tended to go up.
  • The retail industry benefits somewhat from the addition of active transportation infrastructure. In nine of our 14 case studies, retail sales and/or employment were positively impacted by the street improvements. Two case studies showed no impact, and three of the case studies generated mixed results, with some positive and some negative impacts on retail.

Given the hit that local restaurants have taken during the current health crisis, improved bike and pedestrian infrastructure could be a quick and relatively low cost way for local governments to help out this important sector for employment and tax revenues.

FABB notes that a growing body of research and analysis supports the economic and health value of bicycle infrastructure improvements. While Fairfax County has an acceptable master plan for adding bicycle infrastructure, the time has come for accelerated progress. Bicycle and pedestrian improvements as part of a multi-modal transportation approach will go much farther and much faster that other options as government and the private sector try to respond rapidly to accommodate post-pandemic transportation needs and norms.

Interested in helping FABB advocate for more and better bicycle infrastructure? Contact us at i[email protected]

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