Bike Lanes and Economic Development

The nagging and generally unanswered question: “What is the economic impact of bike lanes?” is one of several important topics covered in a significantly thorough multi-year study by the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation.

The just-released study focuses on two roadways: Bloor Street, **where the City installed 2.4km of parking-protected bike lane, and Danford Avenue, “a comparable shopping street with no bike lane.” The study’s economic findings are a bit muddled, as summed up in a press release with links to both executive summary and full report:

  • The number of businesses that reported 100 customers or more per day increased in the study area on both streets. Reported spending increased on Bloor and Danforth at a similar rate.

  • Both before and after the bike lane, customers who arrive by foot or on bike reported higher levels of spending on Bloor Street compared to those arriving by car or transit.

  • On both streets, locals (those living or working in the area) were 2.6 times more likely than those coming from further away to spend more than $100 per month.

Pretty much something for everyone in the bike lane debate there and elsewhere in the study, and the work seems perhaps more important for its having taken place than its findings.

Incorporating vacancy rates, customer and bike counts, along with extensive survey research, the Toronto study serves a vital social science purpose through its methodology alone. As happens in science, even social science (quit snickering, “hard” science folks), the Toronto work is one that will propel further sophistication in future studies.

For instance, one can imagine, and probably only imagine, a similar, even more robust, study looking at Albuquerque’s Lead and Coal downtown, both before and after the promised installation of parking-protected bike lanes (as outlined below):

coal parking protected

That pending Lead/Coal work also shows how hard it is to control variables, regardless of methodology. As Better Burque understands it, the Lead/Coal work is tied to a specific municipal redevelopment project, including new businesses offering chances to shop in what is now a principally dilapidated corridor. Hence, any economic bump would be akin to going from zero to “something.”

But what that “something” is, and the number of that something riding a bicycle and walking to, and spending money at, the new businesses along Lead/Coal is certainly “something” worth tracking. Here’s hoping some bike/ped counts are being done on Lead/Coal even as I type this morning.

Sure would love to see those pre/post counts, along with about ninety-eleven other economic details and safety aspects examined in this important, if not 100% conclusive, Toronto work.

Have a great weekend everybody!


**Note that intense debate on whether to kill the Bloor Street bike lane is ongoing.



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