What’s the BFD?

BFD’s, Bicycle Friendly Districts, are areas that promote and encourage patrons to visit by bicycle. What started in Long Beach, California is a new trend catching on in the U.S. and Canada, although many are adding another B for Business to the acronym. April Economides, who created the nations’ first Bicycle-Friendly Business District, makes a strong case for the importance of these districts.

Watch this video to hear more from the creator of BFD’s!


Bikes Mean Business: Bike Friendly Business Districts

Why BFD’s mean business

Most people understand bicycling is healthy because it’s a form of exercise and brings joy and fresh air. Many folks probably even realize bicycling is good for communities because, compared to cars, it’s non-polluting and increases social interaction and public safety. However, fewer people make the connection between bicycling and local economies. But it’s undeniable that bikes mean business. Here are some reasons bicycling is good for our local business districts and there is a significant local commitment to Shop Local.

  • There is a strong bike local/shop local connection: In contrast to driving a long distance to a mall, bicyclists tend to shop closer to home – and more frequently. As a result, they often notice and try out new shops and restaurants.
  • People traveling at human-scale speed are more likely to notice businesses they pass: Bicyclists not only notice more businesses than car drivers, they can also easily hop off and stop, and their parking is right in front of their destination – and for free.
  • Businesses along bike lanes see increased sales: San Francisco’s Valencia Street merchants reported increased sales when new lanes were installed. Fort Worth’s Magnolia St.’s restaurants saw sales go up nearly 200% after bike lanes and racks went in. On Bloor Street in Toronto, bicyclists and pedestrians spend more money in the area than drivers.
  • Most trips are short trips: Forty percent of U.S. trips are less than two miles. BFBDs help convert some of these trips into bicycling trips, which increases sales for local businesses by leaving parking for customers coming from farther away.
  • Increased bicycling reduces the need to create more car parking: “Not enough parking” is often a top concern of business districts and the average cost to create and install a car parking space is $15,000, compared to a bike rack, which costs about $200. Bicycle parking is taxpayer-friendly and customer friendly since it’s in front of a destination and free.
  • Bicycle-friendly districts attract tourists: Bike tourism is on the rise, and it’s lucrative to cater to. Bike tourists spend about $1 billion annually in Colorado and $1.5 billion annually in Wisconsin. In 2005 in Quebec, bike tourists spent an average of $83/day compared to $66/day for non-bike tourists. Making a local business district attractive to bike tourists is a smart strategy.
  • Bicycling brings joy, and joyful workers bring higher earnings: Happy workers raise sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and task accuracy by 19%. In the U.K., regular bicyclists take 1.3 fewer sick days per year, saving around $200 million through reduced absenteeism – a projected savings of $3.2 billion over the next 10 years. So think of BFBDs as a way to increase “Gross Local Happiness” (or “GLH”), and this is definitely good for employers.
  • Bicycling brings more vibrant Main Streets: Bicyclists, just like pedestrians, add more ‘eyes and ears’ to the district, making it safer, friendlier, and more vibrant. This attracts more women, families, and a diversity of customers, thereby increasing sales.

How about connecting Bicycle-Friendly Districts?

Indianapolis’ Republican Mayor Greg Ballard strives to, “Take on projects that make you first, not projects that are proven and make you like everyone else.” As a result Indianapolis is completing an eight-mile Cultural Trail that links the arts and central business districts as well as  their university all via an urban trail. Austin already has organized business districts (think AIBA’s IBIZ Districts) around town and the unique areas in downtown (like Sixth Street or Second Street Districts or Market/West End District).  How great would it be for Austin to encourage infrastructure that  connects all these great districts?

Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Similarly, New York City’s Traffic Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan transformed several  New York City streets by getting rid of automobile lanes, adding green lanes for bicycling, better sidewalks, and pocket parks. These transformative improvements created more vibrant and inviting public spaces. New economic studies are providing the proof of her vision as sales tax receipts have increased (as much as 50%) on streets with bike lanes compared to streets in adjacent neighborhoods. These same streets have lower vacancy rates as well.

bikes business graphic

So what do you think, is it a BFD or what? Leave us a comment!

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