On December 9, the SFMTA held its first joint hearing with the Small Business Commission to discuss the impacts of transportation planning on small businesses. One of the key topics: the impact of bike and pedestrian improvements on business corridors.
While there have been a few vocal merchants opposing bike projects (namely on Polk Street), the hearing revealed that many San Francisco business owners understand and have experienced first hand that bikes are good for business.
Supporters who submitted letters or spoke on behalf of small business and livable streets included Walk San Francisco, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, Dolan Law Firm, Huckleberry Bikes, PUBLIC Bikes, Sports Basement, Timbuk2, Green Apple Books, David Baker Architects and GAMAGO.
In San Francisco, adding bike lanes has already benefit local businesses, as many merchants testified. On Valencia Street, 2/3 of merchants surveyed think that bike lanes and other street improvements had a positive effect on their business. Small businesses on Jefferson Street in Fisherman’s Wharf are seeing significant growth in their gross sales after a redesign that widened sidewalks and calmed traffic. Studies from New York and Seattle show that investing in better streets actually improves retail business.
The SFMTA’s own study of Polk Street shows that more than 2/3 of shoppers arrive by bike, walking or transit. Those arriving by car spend less per month than the shoppers on bike, foot and transit. The case is clear: bikes mean business.
Having buy-in by business owners is crucial for moving bike and pedestrian projects forward. This year, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition hired a business outreach organizer, as well as launching a business membership program to help make even more SF businesses bicycle friendly.
The result of the hearing was a commitment from both the Office of Small Business and SFMTA to work together to address some of the concerns raised by Director Dick-Endrezzi. No date has been set for a future hearing. If you would like to stay up to date on our work with bikes and small business, please email Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz at email@example.com.