Growing cycling and walking adds to Vancouver’s downtown and business income

By , on the ECOreport. 26 June 2017

Contrary to what some urban business owners expected, the global shift to alternate transportation has not adversely effected their revenue streams. A study from Portland, Oregon, found that “cyclists spent less than drivers on grocery trips, but more at restaurants, bars, and convenience stores.” The average pedestrian or cyclist in Manhattan’s East Village spends $15 to $20 more per month. A University of Melbourne report pointed out (pp 38, 39) that as six bikes fit into one car parking spot, car drivers need to spend six times as much as cyclists to produce the same economic benefit. A new report shows the transition taking place in British Columbia, where pedestrians & cyclists contribute to Vancouver’s downtown businesses. 

“More people than ever before are walking or cycling to stores, restaurants and cafes, and that’s helping move people more efficiently through the city, creating a vibrant local economy, as well as attracting talent and innovation,” said Charles Gauthier, President and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA).

Car usage is declining, and only accounted for half of the trips within the city last year. That number drops to 47%, for shopping and a mere 36%  of the people who ate out. By way of contrast, 52% of restaurant clientele and 36% of shoppers are pedestrians.

The authors of the  Walking + Cycling in Vancouver 2016 Report Card wrote,“People travelling on foot and bike are more likely to engage in a friendly interaction during their trip than people travelling by transit or vehicle.”

Vancouver’s Fastest Growing Transportation Sector

Vancouver’s fastest growing transportation sector is cycling. The number of bicycle trips has almost doubled between 2013 and 2016, but still accounts for only 7% of all trips.

Though 86% of the respondents were comfortable with cycling on separated paths, roughly a quarter were okay with the idea of negotiating traffic.

The weather and local geography are important factors:

“While our Transportation Panel Survey data shows that respondents are about twice as likely to cycle in fair weather, there are over 32,000 people in Vancouver who bike at least five time a week in rainy cold weather.”

“Though people walk and cycle in all of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods, there are clear geographical differences in the ways we get around. Walking is most common in the West End (48 per cent) and downtown (45 per cent). Cycling is once again most common in the Vancouver Port area, made up of the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona, and Grandview-Woodland neighbourhoods (13 per cent), and in Kitsilano (11 per cent).”

Having The Option

“Having the option to take multiple modes of transportation enhances the desirability of downtown as a place to live, work, and do business; it makes us much more competitive and provides us with an advantage that other employment centres don’t necessarily have,” says Gauthier.

“I have always been a supporter of initiatives that make cycling more safe and appealing to people,” said Marcelo Ramirez, owner of La Taqueria, which just opened a new location on Hornby St. “As a cyclist myself, I know that cycling infrastructure makes the downtown more accessible, and this is critical for the success of all downtown businesses.”

All Photos: Courtesy Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association