● Canadian businesses starting to like bike lanes and see cyclists as customers.

Over the years I have made a number of postings about businesses who habitually oppose bike lanes and who place more value on potential customers that arrives by car than those who arrive by bicycle. Well, the winds of change could be in the air. The Globe and Mail recently carried an interesting article on how small businesses in Canada are starting to change their views about cyclists.

What is encouraging about this change is that businesses are not simply dropping their opposition to the construction of bike lanes and infrastructure. Some are going out of their way to specifically attract cyclists and make them feel welcome (for example, by installing bike repair stations with air pumps and some basic tools). More importantly, they are discovering that it’s good for business.

The article reports on how the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (BIA) was initially opposed to a bike lane because of the loss of 170 on-street parking spaces. However, this organization changed its position when merchants in this part of Vancouver realized that only 20 per cent of their customers arrived by car. A study commissioned by the City of Vancouver and various organizations, including the BIA, showed that most people walked, cycled, or took transit to get to the downtown area.

While the article focuses mainly on businesses in Calgary and Vancouver, I would like to think that the same trends are at work here in Ottawa.

I always believed that business opposition to bicycle lanes is reminiscent of what happened over a decade ago when the City of Ottawa first banned indoor smoking in public places. Bar and restaurant owners went ballistic claiming the smoking ban would undermine their businesses and force many of them to close their doors. They formed an association, explored legal options, and waged a high profile public relations offensive to get the city to backdown on the smoking ban. In the end, most discovered that a smoke-free environment was actually good for business because it brought in an influx of new non-smoking customers into their establishments.

2 Comments on ● Canadian businesses starting to like bike lanes and see cyclists as customers.

  1. I think it will take decades to get over our addiction though… esp with the media hype. The media is partly to fault for all the recent backlash against cyclists… a councellor in TO (the sht hole) wants to license bikes, as though that’s going to do much but boost up the city funding by a cent or two
    ( http://torontoist.com/2016/06/toronto-bike-licences/). Ridiculous.

    I’ll agree that bike lanes downtown will increase traffic downtown, esp on the weekend and will eventually decrease traffic thus reducing taxes. As everyone wants to jump in their 3000lbs of metal during peak times, that’s the real underlying problem. But, like junkies we as a society won’t admit our real problems, thus its easier to shame and blame the less common denominator. So, the attention is swayed from the real problem to a lesser of the problem making it seem as though it is the problem (ie cyclists). White the real problem gets away under the spot light… human nature eh, we are good at smoke and mirrors, deviating attention away from the real problem…

    There are 1001 reasons to increase biking, but our addictive and junkie behaviours will cause for great shame and blame – the good old automobile.

  2. I hope you are correct. It only makes sense. What does confuse me, however, is the opposition we saw last year to turning a few parking spaces in the downtown core into bike parking stands and then this year the acclaim that the so-called “parklets” received. As nearly as I can tell, they take up as many or more parking spots than the proposed bike parking stands that were so roundly decried by, primarily, merchants. Perhaps we cyclists and our organizations need to publicize these sort of articles in the Globe and Mail, and a number of other sources and studies.

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