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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Boost Local Shopping Streets by Going Car Free

Berlin wants to support its local businesses by banning cars, and historically this has worked well for other cities. Cities the world over are converting streets built for cars into places that people can enjoy to help their local economies. Berlin joins in on this people-friendly trend and the results already look friendly. The city wants to go a step further and use some of the land cars suck up for relaxing areas for people – why park a car where you can just have a park?

This summer, the German capital has announced plans to pedestrianize some vital central streets starting in October. One experiment will ban cars from the main section of Friedrichstrasse, a long, store-filled thoroughfare that, before World War II, was considered the city’s main shopping street. Another will test daily closures on Tauentzienstrasse, another key retail street, with a view toward going permanently car-free in 2020.


At Tauentzienstrasse, the street is wide enough for a more radical makeover. If it’s fully closed for good, it could accommodate cafés and what Germans call “lying meadows”—lawns intended for lounging and sunbathing—in its median. Such changes probably make as much sense commercially as they do environmentally. While some stores may worry that restricted vehicle access could deter shoppers, in the age of online shopping, it pays to make the location of your store pleasant enough to lure people who simply want to hang out.

Cities Collect Big Bucks from Bike Lanes

a couple, bicycles

Regular readers know that bike lanes are good for people, cities, transportation, and the economy. Yet another article has been written about the greatness of bicycle transportation in case you needed even more evidence of how good bike lanes are. The CBC is running an article that provides a great breakdown of the many ways bicycle infrastructure boosts the economy from how efficient bicycles are to the fact that bike lanes boost home values.

4. Bike lane projects create more jobs than roads alone

Another unique factor some use in favour of bike lanes actually comes out of critiques against them: their cost.

A Canadian report from 2014 noted that the price for installing a bike lane can range from as low as $20,000 per/ km for a painted lane to $1.2 million per/km if a road needs to be widened.

A 2011 U.S. study analyzing 58 projects in 11 different cities found that for every million dollars spent cycling infrastructure projects created 11.4 local jobs compared to 7.8 jobs for road-only projects.

The study says a bike lane “which requires a great deal of planning and design will generate more jobs for a given level of spending,” than a road alone, employing more construction workers and engineers while utilizing less materials.

Nonetheless, bike lane budgets can still produce bad news for local leaders even in bike friendly cities.

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Drivers Don’t Obey the Law as well as Bicyclists

Bicycle

Cyclists have somehow got a bad reputation of being lawless street users over the last century. This reputation is poorly earned since the rebels of the road aren’t on two wheels: they are on four. Car drivers are the worst road users (and the most lethal). The good news here is that we have an opportunity to change the discourse in favour of sustainable transportation while removing the stigma of law breakers on two wheels.

A new study from the Danish Road Directorate shows that less than 5% of cyclists break traffic laws while riding yet 66% of motorists do so when driving. The Danish Cycling Embassy, a privately-funded NGO, puts this down to visibility: law breaking by cyclists is “easy to notice for everyone” but transgressions by motorists, such as speeding, are harder to spot.

Earlier this week, political journalist Peter Walker of The Guardian fronted a video asking whether law breaking by cyclists was the menace that many in the mainstream media say it is. He concluded that, statistically, it wasn’t.

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Christiana Figueres: The Climate Risk Reward Ratio has Changed

The architect of the Paris Agreement, Christiana Figueres, is optimistic about the future of the planet and she sees the technology sector key in moving our economy to a carbon neutral system. She sees the exponential growth in the technology sector and argues that we need that sector’s help to manage “exponential growth in sustainable solutions”. Indeed, she claimed that “the tech sector is the portal to solving climate change” at a press conference at Collision Conference.

I doubt any parent alive today wants to be blamed for the environmental problems their children will face. – Figueres

Technology

We can’t have technology growing for growth’s sake. -Figueres

As she sees it, we are in a race between two exponential curves: sustainable tech growth and climate change. Her hope is that the tech sector can help move the economy away from fossil fuels. We need to decarbonize the economy as fast as possible.

Companies are starting to note that our climate crisis greatly endangers their future business plans.

Transportation

We are killing 7 million people per year because of air pollution that is entirely avoidable if we move to electric mobility. -Figueres

The economy is slowly moving away from fossil fuels, but this needs to happen faster. The risks are too great to continue our slow progress. She even notes that all the major automakers are moving to all electric – even Harley Davidson.

Cities need to regulate the types of cars and busses allowed in their borders so citizens are dangerously exposed to pollution. We have the knowledge, we just need the policies.

Housing

More corporations understanding that its in their own interest to decarbonize. -Figueres

We need purposeful growth and millennials get that, and that’s true when it comes to housing. Figueres envisions a short term goal of retrofitting existing buildings. She wonders why aren’t people retrofitting their buildings since insulation of homes is important to reducing energy combustion.

Figueres calls for policy makers to demand that new buildings power themselves and contribute to a healthier city. Again, we have the technology, we have the knowledge, we just need the policies.

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