Bike Lanes Are Good for Business, but Store Owners Still Hate Them

Businesses hate bike lanes. Sure, they reduce pollution, slow the pace of climate change, cut traffic fatalities, and make cities healthier and more pleasant. But they also take away parking spaces, which makes it tougher for shoppers to load up their cars with piles of stuff. Freaked-out business owners have been fighting bike lanes coast to coast, in cities from San Diego to Cambridge, Massachusetts. They worry — not unreasonably — that anything that makes it harder for customers to get to their stops will eat into their already precarious margins. 

 “As someone whose family had a small business when I was growing up, I know how invested you get in it,” says Joseph Poirier, a senior researcher at the urban-planning consultancy Nelson Nygaard. “It’s your whole life. Anything you think could threaten that, even if the government and their consultants tell you it’s not going to be a problem, is very scary. It makes sense.”

It’s also wrong. Four decades’ worth of research proves it. I know this because I’ve read every study and report I could find that looked specifically at the economics of bike lanes since 1984 — 32 research articles, to be exact. The results show that making streets friendlier for bikes — and sidewalks friendlier for pedestrians — is actually good for business. The rise of “complete streets” and “road diets,” as urban planners call them, has been a huge boon to businesses in cities.

 I won’t walk you through every study, because most of them actually use survey data. Do you think bike lanes discourage shopping? How much do you spend when you ride your bike here? Surveys aren’t the most reliable way to look at this question. People lie, they misremember, they get stuff wrong. And anecdotal experience tends to loom too large. One angry customer who complains about not being able to find parking trumps the 10 who rode their bikes to your shop and didn’t say boo.

More confoundingly, survey after survey has shown that business owners overestimate how many of their customers drive to their stores, versus walking or biking. In a study of the effects of street improvements on a shopping corridor in Los Angeles published in 2012, more than half of the store owners on the bike-laned part of the boulevard thought most of their customers drove. The actual number was 15%.

So what we need is financial

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After 70 years in business, NDG store says reserved bus lane hastened closure – Montreal

A store in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges-NDG borough, that’s been operating for over 70 years, says it’s closing its doors because a new bus lane has hurt business.

The city installed reserved lanes during rush hour on Queen Mary in November of 2022.

Back then, merchants worried aloud that their customers wouldn’t be able to find parking. Now they say their fears have become reality.

“Everything has dropped off at least 25 per cent,” said Barbara Vininsky, owner of Jack and Jill.

Vininsky takes pride in selling what’s trending in the world of kids.

“The customers, they’re like my friends. I have a relationship with them,” she lovingly said.

The business has taken various forms since her mother opened it in 1945, but she says now its storied history as a storefront is over.  She’s closing in a few months, in large part because she claims a reserved bus lane implemented on Queen Mary Road in 2022 has been bad for business.

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During the afternoon rush when parents would drop in with their kids, the parking spots right in front of the store are eliminated to facilitate public transit mobility.

“When they can’t find a parking spot, they just keep going, so you lose all that business,” she said.

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Back when it was announced, Vininsky and others petitioned against the lane. The Punjab Canteen restaurant says it has hurt them, too

“It’s been a very big loss in our business,” said chef Manjeet Kumar.

Kumar said customers have received parking-related fines, and sometimes delivery drivers just don’t pick orders up at all because there’s nowhere to stop.

“I don’t think it reduces parking, they’re just going to have to look for it,” said public transit user Marlene Miolich. “There’s lots of side streets here and buses are imperative.”

When Vininsky announced the closure online, dozens of sad comments poured in.

“I’m very sad because I have to find another job,” said Hazel Young, who has been working at Jack and Jill for 23 years.

Snowdon city councillor Sonny Moroz said he had shopped at Jack and Jill as a child.

“My sister bought all her Beanie Babies there, and to lose it is to lose a landmark institution on an important commercial artery,” he said.

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Moroz voted in favour

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How Luxury Department Store Harrods Built A Booming Restaurant Business

Dining is not the first thing that comes to mind when consumers think of Harrods—despite its retail Food Halls being internationally famous. As one of the world’s top destinations for luxury, showcasing over 3,000 brands, the department store in Knightsbridge, London maintains a high-fashion image based on exclusivity and tailored service.

Even the retailer’s website is shy about the 26-strong restaurant and bar offer—you have to hunt around at the bottom to find the details. Yet eating and drinking in-store has blossomed to the extent that towards the end of last year it was trading 44% higher than it was pre-Covid, and transaction values were also 47% up on 2019. More widely, Harrods turned a profit again in the last financial year for which figures are available.

The latest addition to the roster of dining venues—which features fêted names like Jason Atherton, Vineet Bhatia, Tom Kerridge, Angelo Musa, Gordon Ramsay, and Em Sherif—arrived at the end of 2022. Studio Frantzén, brought another Michelin-starred chef to the store, this time from Sweden.

Björn Frantzén’s à la carte restaurant, with a signature Asian-influenced take on Nordic cuisine, is literally the pinnacle of Harrod’s dining experiences because it is found at the very top of the department store’s building on two floors, plus an outdoor terrace. The latter is claimed to be the only rooftop terrace in Knightsbridge and Mayfair, two of London’s most desirable districts. As well as being a choice for foodies, the 150-seat Studio Frantzén is open late and has a buzzy vibe with two bars, one of which offers sweeping views.

Data-led gains

So what is the attraction of having so many eating and drinking spots in the store? I had the chance to catch up with Harrods’ director of restaurants and kitchens, Ashley Saxton, to find out how food and beverage (F&B) is fast becoming a revenue driver and a cornerstone of the business.

“Our research has found that when customers engage with our restaurants they also engage more often with the store. They spend twice as long in the building and spend twice as much money,” he said.

That insight alone has given Saxton quite a bit of freedom

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