Bikes Mean Business

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Originally published in Spokes Magazine. Top photo via

Bike Parking, photo credit

I recently attended the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C.  It’s always an exciting and energizing event and I particularly enjoy meeting bike advocates and professionals from around the country and hearing about biking in their area.  This year, what I kept hearing is the recognition that biking and walking are good for the local economy.  

A community where it’s easy to get around by bike, on foot, and on public transit has a much better chance of being a vibrant community, where people like to eat, drink, shop, and find other fun ways to spend their money. Research and statistics on this are now becoming much more common. A recent study out of New York City found that retail sales jumped 50% on streets with new protected bike lanes. Similarly, here in the Washington region, 83% Capital Bikeshare members state that they are more likely to patronize a business if it’s located near a bikeshare station.

Java Shack is a local business that is tapping into this people powered economy. The quaint coffeehouse near Clarendon in Arlington caters to the biking crowd with convenient bike parking and an easy to reach location. Biking to Java Shack is easy using the Wilson Boulevard bike lanes and the quiet neighborhood streets. Owner, Dale Roberts, is very aware that most of his customers do not arrive by car.  Dale estimates that “At least 70% of our customers get here on foot and by bike…even more than that on the weekends”. Java Shack wisely supports the local Squadra Coppi cycling team, and is happy to have group bike rides regularly starting and ending from the coffeehouse. We all know how much cyclists love to get caffeinated pre-ride and refueled post-ride. Dale also notices that people that arrive on bike and on foot usually stay longer and spend more money.  Many drivers stop by for a coffee to go and are time-strapped by the parking meters.  Customers that bike or walk are more relaxed, have time to linger, and often buy pastries, a sandwich, or even a second drink.  Dale also mentions the importance of public outreach.  “Our area is so transient, there are always new people moving in.  They need to know about bike and walk accessibility”.

Not surprisingly, communities that are bikeable and walkable are also desirable.  A study in Indiana found that home values close to the Monon Trail are boosted by 11% on average.  Similar trends can be found in our region along the Capital Crescent Trail and Custis Trail.

Employers recognize that bike and walkability are important to their bottom line also.  To attract and retain quality employees, especially in the creative class, it helps to be located in an area with transportation options and a vibrant social scene.  High-tech companies Foursquare and Tumblr in New York City recently pledged support of the new bikeshare program for this reason.

All this shows that biking makes sense, and cents, and dollars.  It’s an important recognition at a time when budgets are being trimmed and economic development is on everyone’s minds.  We all know that biking is good for our health and our environment, now we are improving our understanding of how biking is good for business. So the next time you bike to a local café, coffee shop or retailer, be sure to let the owner know that you arrived by bike and thank them for accommodating you and for strengthening the local economy.

Chris has racked up thousands of miles on bikes including professional racing, traveling, commuting and family rides. His passion for all things biking led him to the position of BikeArlington Program Manager.

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