Home Blogs Opinion Catering to bicyclists benefits Portland businesses

Catering to bicyclists benefits Portland businesses

| Print |  Email
Opinion
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
BY WILL VANLUE | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

08.07.13 Blog WillVanlueMy wife and I sold our second car a few years ago. When we made that leap, we put some of the money we saved each month away in the bank, but some we spent on fun things like dining out, going to the movies, or fixing up our yard. When we moved to Portland about 10 months ago, we brought our car and our disposable income with us. It turns out we’re in good company. Census data from 2011 shows a majority of families (or “households” as the census refers to them) new to the Portland-Metro area since 2005 are light on car ownership, with more working-age adults than cars at home.

That’s very good news for local businesses, especially if they make it easy for people to visit their establishment without a car. Many of the new households in our region have more disposable income than they would if they owned more cars, but the benefits of having more customers without cars don’t stop at cold, hard cash. It also gives businesses a way to stretch scarce resources, like limited real estate, to reach more customers, regardless of how those customers want to travel.

It’s not too difficult to make the connection between reduced household expenses and increased discretionary spending, so we can start there. Portland State University researchers found that patrons who don’t drive visit businesses more frequently (approximately 13 trips per month on average) and spend more money (24% more per month) than customers who arrive in a private motor vehicle.

Businesses that only cater to one type of traffic or another also miss out on the chance to create relationships with people new to a community. People tend to develop habits early after they move to a new home: finding grocery stores, restaurants, hardware stores, and other businesses that fit into their new routine. If customers don’t want to drive all the time, they’re likely to develop relationships with businesses that provide easy options for arriving by bicycle, on foot, and by bus or train.

Yet there’s a whole other group of benefits that come from giving your customers the options they want: it clears up space for customers who don’t have a choice and still needs to get to the store in a car. Even if a business has limited space for cars, it makes sense to convert some parking stalls to serve customers who want to park their bicycles. It’s easy to park 10 customers’ bicycles in the space it takes to park one customer’s car.

Think of a store that has room for three parked cars. One customer visiting the store in a car takes up a full third of the parking lot, and they leave room for just two more customers to visit in their cars. Now think what happens if the store’s owner installs bicycle parking in one of the parking spaces. Customers can now easily visit the store on two wheels, and when they do, they take up a tiny fraction of the total space available -- a measly 3% of the parking lot’s capacity. A bicycle-riding customer still leaves room for two more car-dependent customers, but the forward-thinking store owner now has room for nine additional customers! The total capacity of the parking lot is quadrupled, from serving three customers to serving a dozen, by simply reconfiguring one parking space.

Of course, bike parking alone doesn’t necessarily mean customers will have an easy time getting to the store on a bicycle. Thankfully, streamlining our streets has a shared benefit for everyone, no matter what sort of vehicle they’re in or on.

A survey of one street in Portland found that installation of a safe, practical bike lane -- designated with bright green paint -- cut the number of people riding bikes in front of car traffic by a full 75%. People who drove a car on the street didn’t feel that the green lane made driving any less convenient or slower, and they enjoyed having fewer stressful interactions with people on bicycles.

Streamlined streets also give customers better options to get around and visit businesses when traffic gets bad, as it inevitably does every summer during construction season. The math on how bicycles improve traffic is similar to the math with parking: every person on a bicycle is one less car stuck idling in traffic, blocking the way to the next intersection. When someone chooses to ride a bicycle, the square footage saved on the street more than makes up for the small amount of space needed for a bicycle lane.

Every day I wake up in Portland, I’m thankful my wife and I moved here with our one car. The money we saved by selling our second car opened new possibilities for us, and the options we have for getting around to local businesses allow us spend that extra money right here in our neighborhood.

Will Vanlue is the communications manager for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Oregon Business accepts op-ed on topics relevant to the state’s business community. See op-ed submission guidelines here.

 

More Articles

Two Sides of the Coin

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
22 twosidesBY JASON NORRIS

Historically, when the leaves fall, so do the markets. This year, earnings, Europe, energy and Ebola have in common? Beyond alliteration, they are four factors that the investors are pointing to for this year’s seasonal volatility.


Read more...

Gone Fishing

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LORI TOBIAS

Business has been good to Laura Anderson, leading some to suggest she must be awfully lucky to find such success in a business notorious for failure. But luck’s had little to do with it.


Read more...

100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon [VIDEO]

News
Thursday, October 02, 2014

Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 11.17.21 AMMore than 5,500 employees from 180 organizations throughout the state participated in the 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon project.


Read more...

I Know How You Feel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Most smartphones come equipped with speech recognition systems like Siri or Cortana that are capable of understanding the human voice and putting words into actions. But what if smartphones could do more? What if smartphones could register feeling?


Read more...

100 Best Nonprofits announced

News
Thursday, October 02, 2014

100NP14logo4WebOregon Business magazine has named the sixth annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon.


Read more...

Semiconductor purgatory

News
Monday, October 06, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Intel's manufacturing way station; Merkley's attack dog; Diamond Foods gets into the innovation business.


Read more...

Podcast: Turn Things Around with David Marquet

Contributed Blogs
Friday, October 17, 2014
davidmarquet thumbBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

How can you move from a command-and-control leadership model to one of true empowerment and accountability? David Marquet did, and he took notes along the way.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS