Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Cost of Street Parking Spaces

Cities are adding bicycle lanes to streets with heavy bike traffic as a means of improving safety, but the process is constantly being hindered by strong opposition from the businesses along the streets where the lanes are proposed. Most small businesses with street parking spots are reluctant to give them up for parking lanes out of fear that decreased parking space will affect their business.

This was recently highlighted in San Francisco, when bike lanes were proposed for Polk Street. Though Polk was considered one of the most dangerous streets in the city for cyclists and pedestrians, the plan to add a bike lane faced heavy backlash from local merchants, and as a result, took over 2 years to implement. The backlash from local merchants provoked enough contention in bike advocates that some started a Yelp campaign against an optometrist who lobbied the Mayor to remove his block from the Polk Street bike lane plan.

However, the fears of bike lanes damaging local business are unfounded. In fact, many studies show that rather than decreasing business, increased bike traffic actually seems to promote more spending. While people in cars tend to spend more money per shopping trip, people on bikes tend to take more trips and will ultimately spend more. This has been seen in cities throughout the US and internationally, so any opposition to bike lanes based on negative economic impacts have yet to be justified.

Bike lanes aren’t the only use for parking spots that can be good for business. Parklets are popping up in front of stores and restaurants in many cities, and they too, can increase sales for nearby businesses. Parklets take up only one or two parking spots, but their occupancy rate and turnover are far higher than a parking spot. As a result, places that install parklets often find that the extra activity promotes extra business.


whitemice said...

"This has been seen in cities throughout the US"

Not, it hasn't. I believe this is true, but it has not been demonstrated "throughout the US". At that link there is not a single non-tier-1/non-coastal city US city mentioned.

All the mid-western cities of 1M - 3M people are completely unrepresented.

Does it hold true in places with fewer people, lower density, and more seasonal weather??? I believe it does. But it has not been demonstrated, at least not by any of the studies listed on that site.

Beware citing those studies in the midwest - you will get push back, and with some validity. Grand Rapids, MI is not Seattle, WA.

Kelly Wong said...

Good point! I guess what I was trying to convey by "throughout the US" was more like "some cities in the US," and that economic detriment to local business has yet to be proven anywhere.

But you're definitely right that smaller cities are underrepresented in the article I cited. I would love to see more data on the economic effects of bikes in smaller cities. This old FastCompany article and <a href="http://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf>report</a> by the League of American Bicyclists mention some smaller cities such as Boulder and Memphis, but still focuses on the big cities.

On another note, I think it would be lax to argue the benefits of bike lanes purely from a small business standpoint, as biking has a slew of other potential benefits related to health and the environment, which can eventually become economic benefits. That would have been beyond the scope of this short post though.

Kelly Wong said...

Woops, this is the report by the League of American Bicyclists.