Though the number of people cycling in U.S. cities has been rising steadily in the last few years, there’s still a long way to go before America approaches the levels of, say, Holland or Denmark. Those places have a long history and culture of cycling, and their infrastructure reflects that. Most importantly, they have dedicated lanes that offer real protection to riders. You don’t have to take your life into your own hands just because you’ve donned a little spandex.
To make the case for protected paths, PeopleForBikes and the Alliance For Biking and Walking, two advocacy groups, have created a report that appeals to a key constituency in infrastructure debates: businesses. It features interviews with 15 business leaders around the country, while collecting a bunch of economics data on the bottom line benefits of having bikers around. Below are the four arguments in the report.
Bike lanes have been shown to increase property values in some cities, and more realtors are now using bike lanes as a selling point. The authors spoke to several people in the real estate industry, including Wade Lange, a developer in Portland, Oregon. He says a bike lane helped turn the city’s Lloyd District into a “16-hour district” rather than somewhere people simply drive through twice a day.
Young people are driving less. It’s therefore in the interests of companies that want to attract young talent to locate downtown, rather than in the suburbs. “Because protected bike lanes make biking more comfortable and popular, they help companies locate downtown without breaking the bank on auto parking space, and allow workers to reach their desk the way they increasingly prefer: under their own power,” the report argues.
Keeping employees healthy helps keep a lid on health care spending. Portland’s trail network has been estimated to reduce obesity-related costs by $155 million a year. Quality Bicycle Products, a company in Minnesota, claims to have cut its expenses by 4.4% a year after providing an incentive for its employees to ride to work. Increased activity is also associated with fewer sick days and higher productivity.
Studies show that stores benefit from being near bike lanes. For example, retail sales on 9th Avenue in Manhattan rose 49% compared to a borough-wide rate of only 3% after a bike lane was put in. Studies show similar benefits for Oregon, Toronto, and Melbourne. Though car drivers can take away more stuff, bicyclists tend to shop in greater numbers. For one thing, you can park more bikes in a space than you can automobiles.