Bike lanes can be contentious when they are proposed along retail streets replacing convenient vehicle parking spots. While a bike lane can alter the economic activity in an area, there is growing evidence that in most cases, bike lanes improve the economic activity in an area or at the very least have no negative economic impact. A recent example of such a case is on Bloor St. in the heart of Canada’s most populous city, Toronto. In 2016, the city implemented a pilot project that has now become permanent. The evidence is that along this busy stretch, consumer spending and the number of customers served in businesses along the corridor with the bike lane went up. A recently published study backed up the city’s decision to make the lanes permanent.
The Bloor St. bike lane replaced 136 parking spots which when first proposed made merchant associations in the area worried that the businesses along the street would suffer. A study supported by the City of Toronto, the Metcalf Foundation, the Bloor Annex Business Improvement Area and the Korea Town Business Improvement Area in fact showed the opposite took place. The impact the bike lanes had was positive for the businesses.
The researchers used a case-control and pre-post design to survey merchants and shoppers in an effort to understand the impacts of the bike lanes on economic activity in the area. The team of researchers concluded that downtown retail strips are well suited for bike lanes since the area can benefit from the increased consumer activity.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Planning Association and was a collaboration between Daniel Arancibia, Steven Farber, Beth Savan, Jeff Allen and Lee Vernich of the University of Toronto, and Yvonne Verlinden and Nancy Smith Lea of The Center for Active Transportation at Clean Air Partnership.
Bike lane advocates in the city hope that the Bloor bike lanes will soon be extended west towards High Park.