Reality Check

Photo of York and Avenue 50
Oh, those pesky statistics! Always putting the lie to the NIMBY blither of knee-jerk bikelane opponents.

Of course you heard about New York’s Ninth Avenue, and how the bike lanes there increased business receipts 49% (while similar streets in the borough showed only a 3% rise). Although the naysayers don’t seem to care about safety, the rest of the community can enjoy the drastic reduction in road crashes that also followed.

And naturally you know that in Portland, although businesses fired up their Complain-o-Mats when the bike corral program first began years ago, there’s long been a waiting list for businesses begging the city to take out car parking and get them some in-street bike racks please please please.

Now a study in Seattle shows that at worst, bike lanes don’t reduce business one iota, while at best they seem to boost it into the stratosphere! And unlike the New York study, this one was taken right after the bicycle facilities went in, and so well before they had a chance to mature.

The similar study on York was also done too soon, but still showed that there was no drop in business—though there was a significant drop in retail vacancies that occurred subsequent to the road diet.

I see it in person every week, when I ride through Highland Park on my way to meet my pal Chuck Schmidt of Vélo Rétro in South Pasadena. Even on the dullest of Tuesday mid-mornings, there are plenty of bikes parked in the corral at York and Avenue 50, and usually it’s a pretty good crowd, as it was yesterday when I snapped the photo above. Notably, there are also a lot of butts parked in chairs at Café de Leche and the Highland Café, and people are generally strolling along checking out storefronts as well.

And on York another recent study showed far fewer crashes since the road diet and bike lanes went in. (While bike crashes went up slightly, cycling almost doubled on the street during that time, so the crash rate went down.) Motorists themselves saw the greatest reduction in crashes and injuries.

Slower traffic benefits merchants too, since it lets their stores be noticed. If that weren’t the case, you’d have shopfronts on freeway shoulders. And of course living customers buy more than dead ones.

So it’s obvious at this point that the smart money is on road diets and bike lanes. Shut down the Complain-o-Mat already!

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  1. Rik
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Hold the phone… according to the anti-bike crowd, York has supposedly had awful traffic jams 24 hours a day since the bike lanes went in, such that it takes three hours to go one mile and innocent people are dying because fire trucks and ambulances can’t get to them. But I don’t see that in your picture! You photoshopped out all the cars, didn’t you?!

  2. Posted August 22, 2013 at 12:47 am | Permalink


    Want to see the famous “gridlock” road diet opponents speak of? Look no further than this video showing rush hour traffic (from 5:15pm to 5:20pm)

    Pretty awful, isn’t it?

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