Add this to the growing pile of research: adding bike lanes in place of car infrastructure results in more people patronizing local businesses and increased sales.
Five years ago, the city of Queens, New York, announced that it would be putting bike lanes onto a stretch of Skillman Ave-and removing 116 parking spots. Cyclists loved the plan, but local business owners went ballistic. Taking out those parking spots, as they argued at protests and in letters to the city council, would devastate stores and restaurants along Skillman. “Parking here is already a nightmare,” one fumed at a protest rally.
But the bike lanes were a done deal, and soon they were in place. Early this year, Jesse Coburn — an investigative writer with Streetsblog New York — wondered whether those predictions of economic collapse came true. So he asked the city’s Department of Finance to give him a few years’ worth of sales figures for that stretch of Skillman Ave. How had the businesses on that street fared?
Quite well, it turns out. In the year after the bike lanes arrived, businesses on Skillman saw sales rise by 12 percent, compared to 3 percent for Queens in general. What’s more, that section of road saw new businesses open, while Queens overall had a net loss.
The thing is, the actual merchants along Skillman? They didn’t believe it. When Coburn spoke to them and described what he’d found, only a few store owners admitted the lanes had helped. Many still insisted the lanes were killing their part of the city. And emotions ran hot: Someone scattered tacks on the bike lane.