March 16, 2015

Twinning Tweets: 48 rolls of toilet paper and one complete business case

Two Ohrn Facebook posts back to back:


Record load of shopping:


Five big bags of groceries, 10lbs of potatoes, 7lbs of apples, 48 rolls of toilet paper, and a new blender. Our biggest haul yet! — at Central Valley Bike Path.


Bike lane Business case: guess what?  People on bikes buy stuff.  From CityLab:


The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes

An annotated, chart-filled review of 12 studies from around the world.


… here’s the thing about the “studies on possible economic impacts” requested by retailers … wherever bike-lane plans emerge—they’ve been done. And done. And done again. And they all reach a similar conclusion: replacing on-street parking with a bike lane has little to no impact on local business, and in some cases might even increase business. While cyclists tend to spend less per shopping trip than drivers, they also tend to make more trips, pumping more total money into the local economy over time.

So to put these debates to rest we’ve compiled an annotated, chart-filled guide to every major study we know of conducted on the subject to date. Here they are, in no particular order, for your public meeting pleasure.

  • Portland, Oregon
  • East Village, New York City
  • Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington, New Zealand
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Davis, California
  • Bristol, England & Graz, Austria


From Canada:

  • Vancouver, Canada

    This study of shops in downtown Vancouver did find a net decrease in sales after the implementation of a separated bike lane. But the analysis relied on business surveys, rather than actual sales data, which might have led to a response bias among the merchants who took the biggest hit. The little sales data that was received “indicated that the estimated loss in sales was not as high as reported in the surveys.”

    Key line:

    Despite efforts to increase response with follow-up telephone calls, there is some degree of uncertainty about the randomness of the results obtained.

    Toronto, Canada

    Surveys were conducted with 61 merchants and 538 patrons on Bloor Street in Toronto. It was found that only 10 percent of patrons drove to the shopping area, and that those arriving by foot and bicycle spent the most money per month. Report authors concluded that converting street parking into a bike lane in the area was “unlikely” to have a negative impact on business and that, on the contrary, “this change will likely increase commercial activity.”

    Key chart:

    Clean Air Partnership


The best graphic for last:

  • Melbourne, Australia

The award for best infographic goes to research conducted on the shopping behavior of cyclists and drivers in Melbourne, Australia. Researcher Alison Lee found that drivers spent more per hour than cyclists, about $27 to $16.20. But because six bikes can fit into a single automobile parking space—for a total hourly spending of $97.20—Lee argued there would be an economic gain to using that space for bicycles instead.

Key infographic:

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  1. I would be very hesitant to assume that no change for Hornby or Dunsmuir businesses would be replicated anywhere outside of the downtown core. Despite the whinging from drivers, there is plenty of offstreet parking downtown but there is not on Commercial or Main or even West 4th.

  2. Bob – I think you could be correct there. It could be very damaging for Main Street merchants, where many side streets are already resident parking only, which is a pretty good indicator of how much business arrives there by car. Centre cities do seem to be a separate condition.

    1. I totally assume that putting in any cycling infrastructure on either Main, Commercial or Fraser would also involve converting some of the resident only parking on side streets to just regular parking.

      1. I’d really like that, especially if it meant no stripping of parking for rush periods on pedestrian-oriented shopping strips. I understand that Robson Street has recently gone that way – bravo!

  3. The photo of the cyclist with full load of groceries leaves so much out of the picture that it amounts to a propaganda shot. As the person who does all my family’s grocery shopping alone, sometimes on a bike, I can tell you the key word in the caption: “our.” Because if that guy were claiming to have done all that shopping by himself, one of three things are true: a) he carried all those groceries in one go from store till to bike, b) he carried it out in two shifts, leaving a portion of his haul unattended in the store and on the bike while he did so, or c) he wasn’t shopping alone. So he shopped with someone who helped carry, and that person has been left out of the picture for some reason.

    In the absence of a way to secure groceries on the bike, the carrying capacity of a bike is limited to what one person can carry. This is true whether one is shopping at one store or several. If one makes more than one stop, at every stop, the previous purchases have to be carried into the subsequent store (unless you think leaving your groceries in your basket on Commercial Drive would be smart). This even limits the use of a bike at farmers markets.

    By the way: if we’re looking for data, Bloor Street in Toronto is served by a frequent-stop subway line. Not a clear source of info for the car/cycle debate.

      1. Ha, you’re right. I forgot about shopping carts; most of the places I shop either they don’t have them or you can’t take them out of the store. So I guess this mode would work for shopping alone at grocery stores with parking lots. Isn’t that ironic.

        1. Shopping baskets are also a thing that exists for carrying individual loose items.

          Or you place your items in reusable bags at the till and carry these to the cargo bike.

          Plenty of folks in countries where cargo bikes are more popular have been figuring out these apparently epic challenges without significant issue for a very long time now.

          1. My point was that no one can carry alone what that guy had on his cargo bike, whether in baskets or bags of any kind. As for other countries, they also have different infrastructures and cultures which either better enable cargo bike use and multiple stops, or make multiple trips more feasible. Also, those who ride to the market every day are probably also making weekly runs in the car to Aldi for the big load. That’s the problem with snapshot advocacy, which I am saying amounts to propaganda. Here, the case is being made for the use of a bike for the big loads, and I’m saying it’s misleading at best. The cycling lifestyle in this Canadian urban environment is complicated, convoluted, constrained, slower, and harder than the car-based lifestyle, and to pretend otherwise is politically exploitative.

            I’m not saying the cycling lifestyle shouldn’t be adopted – I’m a practitioner for god’s sake. I’m saying that it should be honestly portrayed and, ideally, promoted with advice on how to overcome the constraints – rather than pretending the constraints don’t exist.

            For example, I have to dress differently on days that I ride. There are certain kinds of street clothes that lend themselves better to riding than others. So I’d never post a photo of someone allegedly riding in clothes that really don’t work well on the bike.

            1. Funny, I find the cycling lifestyle (at least in Vancouver) to be far less complicated, convoluted, or constrained than a car-based one, and I have done both. Heck of a lot cheaper and happier too. During rush hour its usually faster than many car trips. I’ll grant you that it might be “harder” in the sense one needs to exert calories in exchange for motion, but I also consider that a positive trait.

              Cycling (like most things in life) is only as complicated as you make it.

              I think you might be doing it wrong.

    1. He could easily get help to his bike from a bag boy, like people get help to their cars.

      But as you mention, having a locked, secure trunk of a car (that big enough for multiple purchases) is a significant advantage for using a car – it allows you to easily combine trips to multiple stores for various types of purchases (large bulky ones, small pocketable ones) – saving time.

  4. [To Mark] Sigh. No I don’t do it wrong. You are debating wrong in that you are attacking and judging me rather than engaging on the point I was making, which is that the photo has an inherent dishonesty. But if you are as dishonest as the photo, then of course there’s no discussion to be had.

    Cycling can be simple if your life is simple, and that depends in part on whether you have responsibilities for only yourself or for others, and on how far your geographic reach is/needs to be. Around here it is also inherently complicated because one is trying to cycle in a city with infrastructure built for vehicular traffic – eg, the Massey Tunnel is a barrier to cycling.

    1. “Propaganda”, “politically exploitative”, “inherent dishonestly”… All from a picture of a dude using a cargo bike on a bike path!

      Yikes. Vancouverites eh?

      Whatever you do don’t visit this page:

      The amount of blatant propaganda of people allegedly going about their allegedly normal lives in allegedly normal clothing is worse than that moon landing nonsense. 😉

  5. I’m curious, Mark. What’s your full name? Very few of the people who treat me with contempt on this blog do so with full disclosure of their identity. And if not your name, maybe you could say what you do for a living, what kind of a family situation you have, or something to give your comments the same amount of context that I provide in mine.

  6. I have a cargo bike and actually leave groceries and other items unattended for some time on my bike regularly. So far, no case of theft or food poisoning (!). I probably wouldn’t leave something horribly expensive there, but so far so good. In the absence of shopping carts, I also can carry an amazing lot out of a store to the bike rack. One gets creative. I wouldn’t walk a kilometer loaded like that, but for the 10-20 meters from the till to the bike, it’s not a big deal.