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.
IT’S AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE FAIL TO SEE THE POINT WHEN IT COMES TO BICYCLES. Bicycling is BIG business. We’re so focused on giant highway projects, massive train upgrades and huge airport expansions we tend to overlook bike lanes as a major economic strategy.
Bicycling in America generates $133 billion dollars annually. That’s goods and services used by a record 60 million bicyclists in the US.
Those bike dollars support employment for 1.1 million Americans.
Tax revenue created by bicyclists on the federal, state and local level is about $17.7 billion per year.
Think about all the positive implications of a bicycling nation.
In our economy, the public mostly has sedentary jobs. They sit in front of computer terminals all day long. Bicycling gets those legs and hearts pumping. Burns up calories. Moves muscles.
We also tend to drive our cars a lot. Everywhere. Riding a bicycle to work, or to a store or a restaurant cuts down the number of vehicles on a street. Traffic is a major nightmare in every city and town across America. Building trains, adding buses and licensing more cabs is not the only solution. Give people an option to bike instead.
That massive number of cars we drive continues to create a massive amount of pollution. Especially in cities. Creating ways to get more people on bicycles certainly puts less carbon into the atmosphere and cuts down on that brown haze overhead.
Add bike sharing stations near train and bus terminals. That encourages more people to use mass transit because they know they can hop on a bike to reach their destination.
So, why isn’t this nation focused on building more bike lanes? Adding more bike parking racks and sprucing up our bicycling infrastructure overall? People for Bikes reports that 47% of American say they want more bike paths in their community.
Sure, it always comes down to money. But in this case, the money works in our favor.
Consider the economic impact from bicycling in the following states. (Source: Study by the League of American Bicyclists and Alliance for Biking & Walking).
Colorado – this state is gaining a reputation as THE BICYCLING STATE. The Colorado Dept. of Transportation said that back in the year 2000 bicycling contributed $1 billion to the economy. This state is in gear when it comes to promoting bicycling as a lifestyle and a vacation.
Wisconsin – a study four years ago said bicycling contributed $924 million to the state’s economy. This state, by the way, has 20% share of bicycling manufacturing in the US. That’s nearly a cool billion generated from a simple two-wheeled device.
Minnesota – the spending generated by bicycles is estimated at $261 million.
Vermont – they estimate that biking and walking creates at least 1,400 jobs, $41 million in paychecks and $83 million in revenue.
Maine – this is a one of the top ten bicycle friendly states in the nation and their efforts paid off as it generated $66 million in 2001 with their popularity as a place for bicycle tourism. Imagine how much that annual revenue has increased in the past 14 years.
Oh, there’s more. While some states are not pedaling to success, many cities and town are jumping on the bike path on their own. And it’s paying off big time for them. Build a bike path, people use it.
Portland, OR, officials said when they did a study in 2008, the found that bicycles generated about $90 million in economic activity from retail, rentals and repairs.
Boulder, CO, estimates that bikes generate $52 million annually in just that one mid-size city alone. That’s incredible.
In New York City, after the Department of Transportation added protected bike lanes along Ninth Avenue, retail sales went up 49%. Wow. What a great and inexpensive way to stimulate an economy. (By the way, if you have people bicycling past your business, it’s smart to stick a bike parking rack out front to get their attention…and spending dollars).
Don’t forget the enormous dollar savings in health benefits. This is another major factor that needs to be taken into consideration. More people bicycling makes for more healthy citizens and fewer citizens in hospital beds.
Businesses are starting to get it. Want to immediately draw people to your business? Place commercial bike racks out front. Take away a parking spot or two and add a bike corral. When consumers park in front of your business, they are very likely to spend money at your business. Studies show a 15%-25% bump in sales.
Bicycle tourism is booming. What a simple way to attract tourists. Ski resorts get it. Many are adding mountain biking trails. Some states get it. Iowa’s 25-mile super cool High Trestle Trail is a perfect example of how to create a biking destination.
Europe is much older than the United States. Yet they still bicycle everywhere. For example, some experts say 50% of the people in Copenhagen bicycle to work. One out of two commuters. Why? Because it’s the most efficient way to get around.
The Department of Transportation had a $77.2 billion budget for 2014. How much of that money goes toward creating transportation systems using bikes? Probably not much. Heck when providing transportation for bicyclists, unlike trains or buses, they don’t even have to supply the seats. American bicyclists will take care of that.
You can see the economic benefit. It’s there. Time to get civic leaders on board, or better yet, on a bicycle. Use all those studies that are available to get the word out about the benefits of bike paths, bike parking racks and a bigger bicycle infrastructure.