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The Economics of the Bike Boulevard

2:09 PM PST on December 8, 2009

12_8_09_4sbb.jpgLive the dream. Photo: Mr. Rollers via Ingrid Peterson/Flickr

There's an interesting piece in today's Los Angeles Business Journal by Richard Risemberg on the economics of the Bicycle Boulevard and why the city needs to begin installing them immediately . While it's trues that Risemberg is a bike partisan, he writes the excellent Bicycle Fixation Webzine and is part of the Bike Coalition's 4th Street Bike Boulevard committee, he deserves bonus points for taking the campaign to a new audience and speaking to them in their language.

Risenberg trys two rhetorical attacks to make his point.  First, he re-frames typical cyclist arguments in economic terms.  For example, he takes the typical argument that car travel lanes are a waste of space and instead argues that they're a waste of money to build and maintain.

Second, he shows that, across the world, Bike Boulevards are good for business.  In his bulleted points arguing for Boulevards, these two stuck out to me:

• Money in retailers’ pockets. Studies in San Francisco and Torontoshowed that while merchants believed that 70 percent of their customerscame by car, when traffic was counted, it turned out that only 30percent did so. Cars take up vast amounts of room; a street orstructure filled with cooling metal doesn’t always translate intohotter sales. Each car, in real life, represents only one shopper. Youcan park 12 bicycles in the space of one car.

• Integration withmass transit, drawing more people to buses and trains. As theTransportation Research Board found in 2004: “Studies suggest thatdevelopments that incorporate bicycling and walking infrastructure inproximity with public transportation can reduce fiscal outlays of localmunicipalities towards roads and other infrastructure expansion by 25percent.” This means lower taxes for you.

For the curious, a discussion on the Streetsblog Network mailing list ferreted out some of the information Risemberg mentions.  For starters, our friends at San Francisco Streetsblog have written two stories covering business trends and cycling trends in their city with The Myth of the Urban Driving Shoppers and Only 17% Drive to Shop in Downtown San Francisco.  Transportation Alternatives in New York City also crunched numbers from a lot of different sources for their report Streets to Live By.

Risemberg, naturally, wants to see the city focus on making Fourth Street between the Downtown and Fairfax the first Bicycle Boulevard in city limits.  Anyone interested in joining the LACBC's Bicycle Boulevard Campaign for Fourth Street can join their mailing list by visiting their "google groups" page.

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