A growing market of urban bicycle commuters is changing the way small businesses in many cities cater to customer traffic, and changing the way those cities’ governments funnel that bicycle traffic down Main Street.

As more cities dedicate portions of major thoroughfares to bicycle lanes, entrepreneurs are looking for ways to capture those cyclists as customers. Studies have shown that bicycle commuters have already established themselves as formidable buyers

Recent studies have bolstered support among local business owners for expansion of bike lanes in their communities. Those studies indicate that bike commuters tend to stop and shop often on their routes to work and back home. “When people travel by bike they tend to eat, shop and play more locally,” Martha Roskowski, a spokeswoman for the consumer advocacy group that supported the studies, told NBC News.

Roskowski’s organization, Bikes Belong, provided partial funding for one of the studies, conducted in Portland, Ore., by researchers at Portland State University. Among its findings is that while people who drove their cars to local stores spent more money per visit than cyclists, the bicycle commuters at shops, bars and restaurants visited more frequently and spent more money overall at those establishments.

“There is a perception that bicyclists sit in coffee shops all day and don’t spend,” said Kelly J. Clifton, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering who was the lead investigator for the study. Clifton told NBC News that although Portland had a well-established and rich bicycle culture, “it is highly likely this study’s findings would yield similar results in other places.”

Clifton’s assumption was confirmed by a New York City Department of Transportation report that showed small businesses near Manhattan’s 9th Avenue bike lanes saw sales increase by up to 49 percent after the bike-only lanes were installed and parking in them was prohibited. That growth was 16 percent higher than the business growth experienced elsewhere in the borough.

While business owners had long been concerned that removing any nearby parking would have been harmful to their cash registers, the data, and their sales, have proven otherwise. “[I]f public spaces are made more attractive and more vibrant, people will spend money, and businesses will do better,” said Roskowski.


Mohn, Tanya. “Bike Lanes May Benefit Small Businesses”, NBC News.