Cities like Provo are rolling out new bike lanes — and to a lesser extent pedestrian infrastructure — all the time under the assumption that they have some benefit on the general community. Now it looks like those benefits may be larger, and more immediate, than some might have suspected.
According to the New York Times, stores around new bike lanes in New York have see massive increases in sales over the last few years:
Using data from the city’s Department of Finance, the DOT found an increase of as much as 49% in retail sales at “locally based businesses” on 9th Avenue from 23rd to 31st Streets since the bike lane was initiated in the fall of 2007. In that time, retail sales increased only 3% in the rest of Manhattan.
Similar improvements also occurred around new pedestrian plazas:
The DOT reported a drop of commercial vacancies of 49% in the area around the new pedestrian plazas and reconfigured traffic flow at Union Square, and a jump of 71% in retail sales along Fordham Road in the Bronx, where the city has launched Select Bus Service, cutting travel times and boosting ridership even as citywide bus usage has slowed significantly.
In Provo, I still think the best way to improve the retail climate downtown is to increase density.
But these findings from New York show that, if density exists, bike and pedestrian additions really make a difference. In other words, cities like Provo don’t have to undertake costly and high-risk experiments related to biking and walkability; New York already tried those experiments and proved that they work.
For patrons and owners of the various shops in downtown Provo, these findings suggest a clear action plan: support increased pedestrian and bike projects and de-emphasize car-oriented development in order to increase revenue.