Toronto’s Bloor Bike Lanes Boost Local Businesses

Bicycle

Despite being only 2.4 kilometres long the bike lane on Bloor street in Toronto was heavily contested. It was debated in local politics for decades and was only declared permanent recently. During the debate car drivers demanded the “right” to occupy land at the expense of others while maintaining an unhealthy and dangerous urban design. Thankfully, city councillors chose the safer bike-friendly design. Businesses argued that their customers drive to their stores and that due to the bike lane their business will fail. Thankfully this was incorrect. A study released last week revealed that, like everywhere else, bike lanes actually bring more money to small businesses.

Problem, research strategy, and findings:
Bike lane projects on retail streets have proved contentious among merchant associations in North America, especially when they reduce on-street parking. A limited but growing number of studies, however, detect neutral to positive consequences for merchants following bike lane implementation. In 2016, the City of Toronto (Canada) removed 136 on-street parking spots and installed a pilot bike lane on a stretch of Bloor Street, a downtown retail corridor. Using a case–control and pre–post design, we surveyed merchants and shoppers to understand the impacts of the bike lanes on economic activities. We find no negative economic impacts associated with the bike lanes: Monthly cus- tomer spending and number of customers served by merchants both increased on Bloor Street during
the pilot.
Takeaway for practice: Our findings are consistent with an improving economic environment at the inter- vention site. Downtown retail strips may therefore be suited to tolerate bike lanes and even benefit from increased retail activity. Pre and post surveys can provide valuable insights into local economic impacts of streetscape changes affecting merchants along city streets, especially where access to sales data
is limited.

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