Businesses all over are discovering the value of the bicyclist. They should. Because there are 60 million bicycle enthusiasts in the US and every time a town improves their biking infrastructure, more consumers hop on their bikes.
When a business caters to bicycle riders, for example by providing secure commercial bike racks where they can park, they will be rewarded.
Previously, businesses were opposed to removing parking spaces to make room for bike lanes or for bike parking corrals. But study after study has shown that when you cater to the bicycling consumer, they will tend to flock to you area.
In NYC, after adding bike lanes on Ninth Avenue, the Department of Transportation found that retail sales shot up by nearly 50%.
On First and Second Avenues, bike traffic grew 177%, more stores opened, and empty storefronts dropped as a result. That’s a model for other downtowns to emulate.
Officials in North Carolina’s Outer Banks reported their one-time investment of $6.7 million for bike infrastructure has resulted in NINE times the return as bicycle tourism became more popular.
One study by Portland State University tried to determine the real benefits of bicyclers on a granular level. The research was funded by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium and really tried to dig deep to discover the impact from bicycle riders compared to other modes of transportation.
To do this, researchers conducted short surveys of actual customers as they left bars, restaurants and convenience stores.
What they uncovered was that while bicycle riders did not spend as much per trip as people who arrived at the destination by car, they visited the businesses MORE OFTEN and at the end of the month, SPENT MORE OVERALL than auto drivers.
Here’s the breakdown of Trips per Month, Dollars Spent per Trip and Dollars Spent per Month.
Auto – 4.5 trips – $13.70 per trip – $61.03 per month.
Bike – 7.1 trips – $10.66 per trip – $75.66 per month.
Transit – 5.7 trips – $10.15 per trip – $58.16 per month.
Walk – 5 trips – $11.25 per trip – $66.22 per month.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom held by most local business people. Yes, someone coming up to your business on a bicycle might not buy a bunch of stuff at one time (one issue is, how would they carry it? Yes, there’s more space in a car).
But, that person is more likely to return to your business more often on a bicycle (hopping on a bike is certainly easier than driving a car, especially when it comes to finding a dreaded parking space).
When it comes to restaurants and bar, it’s a no-brainer. Ride a bike to eat, then work it off on the way home.
Ride to a bar, then you don’t have to worry so much about a DUI (although you can get a DUI for riding under the influence on a bicycle).
For many cities, parking and traffic are the main issues. Just think, remove one parking spot for one car and add commercial bike racks. You then create a bike corral that can accommodate around 20 bikes.
That’s a 2000% increase in the number of customers you are attracting to your business. Got to run quite a few ads to accomplish the same thing.
Congestion caused by cars is a deterrent for most people. But with a bicycle, there is no issue.
The other fantastic benefit of giving bicycles access to a business district is the pace at which consumers drive by. In a car, drivers whiz by on their way to their destination and can’t stop, less they get harassed by the honking horn of the driver behind them.
But with a bike lane in front of a business area, consumers can come and go freely. They are able to take the time to discover what each business is all about.
Then consider the price of gas. Sure it’s less than $3 per gallon now and was headed south for a while, but then it mysteriously shot back up again. Consumers know they are never going to win that battle. Better off using people power instead. Every calorie expended is money not spent at the pump.
Savvy business people are actually now offering discounts to bike riders. Give them 10% off if they visit your business by bicycle. This has several benefits.
For one, bicyclists feel they belong to a select community and your business obviously is acknowledging this group. Secondly, word will spread through that two-wheel community about the discount.
Third, that bicycle rider will not be taking up a valuable parking space that might attract a customer by car. A deluge of people swamping an area can scare customers away. Remember that old adage by Yogi Berra, “People don’t go there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Clever businesses are now even offering valet bike parking. Pedal up, get off, and a valet will secure your bicycle at nearby commercial bike racks for you.
This appeal to bicycle riders doesn’t just apply to retailers and the hospitality industry. Smart real estate developers are now making sure they add first-class commercial bike racks, bike storage and other bicycle amenities to their projects. They advertise those benefits because they know it creates one more reason why a renter or condo buyer will want to locate there.
To encourage businesses to jump on the bicycling consumer bandwagon, the League of American Bicyclists even launched a Bicycle-Friendly Business program issued to businesses that make the effort to accommodate bicyclists by providing such items as secure commercial bike racks (more detail on that in another blog).
Business would be smart to wear that BFB designation as a badge of honor. More importantly, use it as a billboard to attract customers. Post it on the website. Promote it on Facebook. Announce it frequently on Twitter. Add it to every email blast. Show photos of bikes parked at your commercial bike racks on Instagram and Pinterest.
Sure, this is the age of the iPad and the smartphone. But guess what? More than ever, people want to ride their bikes. Persuade town officials to add more bike lanes in front of business districts.
Add the right amenities such as commercial bike racks to create the right atmosphere for the bicyclist as a consumer. Add reaching out to this group to every marketing plan. It’s a fact. When people stop pedaling, they start spending.