Bike parking and the bottom line

5 reasons why retail business can no longer afford to ignore bicyclists

Once, providing a secure bicycle parking infrastructure was an option that was only considered by socially-conscious business owners in bike-friendly communities. But with bicycle commuting rapidly growing, that has changed. Now, business owners in almost all communities must face the reality that a significant portion of consumers now pedal their way to shop and dine. Although it was once thought to be an extra feature, the provision of bike parking has become a necessity for successful retail businesses and workplaces.

Let’s review why:

1. The numbers

Have you noticed more people pedaling past your business lately? There’s no doubt that bike commuting and bicycle tourism are growing trends in North America’s largest urban centers. Bicycle commuting rates increased by 62 percent nationally between 2000 and 2013, and, in some communities, the increase has been even more drastic. Not catering to this growing demographic means missing out on their business.

2. Revenue

Providing accommodations for cyclists has the potential to not only boost the number of people who visit your business, but also to boost revenue. While many business owners have voiced concern that bicyclists tend to spend less money than their automobile-driving counterparts, research shows people on bikes visit businesses more frequently, and, as a result, in many cases generate more overall revenue. In fact, with all the money they save on gas, maintenance, and parking, some bicyclists spend even more than drivers. In New York, for example, a 2012 study found that bicyclists spent the most among commuters, on each shopping trip.

3. Job satisfaction and employee performance

A bike parking infrastructure isn’t only a benefit for customers; it also increases employee happiness. With secure bike parking at their workplace, employees are more likely to ride to work. Bicycling is a vigorous cardiovascular activity that increases physical fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It can also improve mental health which has a positive effect on the workplace. One study found that bicycling before work can increase productivity by up to 15 percent, while also reducing sick days by 15 percent.

4. Brand image

Today, image is everything for businesses. A commitment to sustainable transportation will help businesses promote both their progressive change to a more responsible lifestyle and their commitment to supporting a diverse customer base. Providing secure bike lockers or bike racks is an effective way for a retail business to help shape the culture.

5. Reduced expense

From the reduced cost of parking maintenance to the decreased cost of health insurance for cycling employees, the installation of secure bike storage options can lead to savings for your business. Often, in situations where vehicular parking must be shared, bike-friendly businesses can save the expense of renting or validating the spaces the bicyclists would otherwise use if they drove. Businesses that encourage bicycling may also save on the expense of compensating short-distance business travel for their employees. On top of it all, the provision of bike racks allows businesses to add parking capacity in space they already own.

Having parking infrastructure that accommodates bicyclists offers numerous benefits to business and requires little in terms of investment. Bike parking requires far less real estate than parking spaces for automobiles. As well, a single bike rack can offer parking for multiple bikes at a convenient location, granting prime access to a building entrance.

Municipal support has also grown with the popularity of bicycling. Many community programs now offer financial assistance to businesses looking to increase bike parking at their locations. Through these programs, community groups and government representatives can help plan for bike racks – and in some situations, may even offer free hardware and installation. With business incentives and many signs indicating that bicycling rates will continue to increase, providing secure bicycle storage is an investment that retail businesses cannot afford to miss.

Ed.: For business and property owners interested in adding bike parking, Arlington County’s TDM for Site Plans team has a detailed explanation of bike parking best practices.

Photo: A busy bike rack in Arlington County, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab; www.kittner.com)

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