New Protected Bike Lanes are Great for Downtown Businesses

October 26, 2015

July’s audit of The Denver Moves Plan led to much needed conversation about the city’s commitment to improve bicycle and pedestrian mobility throughout Denver, and was a hot topic within the local community.  Denver has been a change maker in the past, but Auditor Dennis Gallagher uncovered how talk has been cheap with respect to the improved bicycle and pedestrian safety measures outlined in the plan.  Many have been quick to criticize The Department of Public Works for slow implementation of Denver Moves, but the ongoing installation of parking-protected bike lanes on Lawrence and Arapahoe Streets suggest that the city is beginning to pick the “higher-hanging” fruit in their plan.

Protected bike lanes are the best bicycle facility because they completely separate people riding bikes from deadly car traffic and encourage members of the interested but concerned group to pedal.  Denver recently installed the first protected bike lane along 15th St. and, according to a local study, it has drastically increased the number of people riding bikes along 15th St. without reducing car traffic , improved safety for all users by reducing the number of conflicts, and did not have any negative economic impacts for local businesses.  Other studies cite that modern bicycle and pedestrian networks improve local safety, social, and environmental issues, but many forget to cite the most important part…of how great bicycles are for the local economy!

Let’s do a quick thought exercise to highlight this:

Numerous studies cite how protected bike lanes help improve safety for people on bikes, access to goods and services, and significantly boost bicycle ridership levels.

PROTECTED BIKE LANES ARE GREAT FOR PEOPLE

Basic economic theory, and several studies, suggest that you need customers to succeed in any type of business, and more customers mean more business.

PEOPLE ARE GREAT FOR BUSINESS

These two points highlight how building protected bike lanes in dense urban environments represents a win-win for local businesses and residents because they are a more efficient and cost-effective use of the public right-of-way that funnel customers towards local businesses.  There are numerous studies that target this point too.

PROTECTED BIKE LANES ARE GREAT FOR BUSINESS

These simple truths point to protected bike lanes as a commonsense infrastructure improvement and have already influenced decision makers in our nation’s more progressive regions.  Bikeable shopping districts flourish by attracting a broader audience of customers to their pedestrian-friendly environments, while bikeable cities are often safer, cleaner, and more desirable places to live.  I must caution that a protected bike lane is not a silver bullet that can magically revitalize all stagnant business districts, but I assert that building protected bike lanes in parts of the city with high population and destination densities will lead to positive local economic impacts. 

One can see how customers on bikes are equally important as customers in cars, and that business districts that cater to all modes of transportation are better poised for success than ones that only cater to the automobile.  Denver is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth where adding bicycle facilities, especially protected bike lanes, will allow us to fit more people into our city, while also ensuring the longevity of local businesses that make Denver one of the best places to live in the US.