Do bicycles improve urban economies?

We came across an interesting piece this week which attempted to analyse the economic impact (and benefit) of using bicycles over cars, given the increasing uptake and supporting infrastructure being implemented in cities in Australia and around the world.

In theory, it’s a good idea – bicycle-related infrastructure is relatively cheap to install compared to new roads or transit systems. Furthermore, it’s easier to interact with local businesses when travelling by bike, according to This Big City blog.

But bicyclists can’t carry as much as vehicles. Smart Planet therefore asks – does that lessen the economic impact that bicyclists have on businesses? Assuming a high demand for bicycle usage, bicyclists have the advantage of being able to fit more people into a small space than cars, even though they might spend less per trip.

A study from Australia attempts to put some figures behind this thinking. Based on data from more than 1,000 survey respondents, Alison Lee found that, even though cyclists spend less on average, improvements to urban bicycle networks still bring retail benefits. Lee suggests that by replacing one car parking space with six bicycle parking facilities, the lower average spend of a cyclist could be multiplied, offering improved revenue opportunities for nearby businesses. Of course, this simple mathematical equation, whilst theoretically true, assumes enough demand to keep the bicycle parking facilities adequately full.

Despite this, Lee’s findings are remarkably similar to a study from the Dutch city of Utrecht which found that whilst bicycle-based consumers spend less per transaction, they make more visits and spend the most collectively. This isn’t the only connection – a German study found similar results, calling cyclists ‘better customers’ due to them making eleven trips per month compared to seven for motorists. And the Swiss are in on it too, where research into parking space profitability found that each square metre of bicycle parking generated €7500 compared to €6625 for cars. This seems to confirm basic logic – devoid of any significant storage space, cyclists are likely to spend less and shop more.

via Smart Planet.

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