Bike SA’s CEO, Christian Haag explains why bike infrastructure is good for business. 

Adelaide City Councillors have voted to undertake a further independent review on the merits of the existing Frome Street bikeway. They have also committed to proceed with design and costings for its completion through North Terrace to the River Torrens. They are to be commended for this decision.

This follows the release of the Council’s own independent report into the effectiveness of the first stage of this valuable piece of transport infrastructure.

The results of this analysis are extremely encouraging, with more people using Frome Street to ride for personal mobility, with a noted increase in women and children riding, proving that such facilities are increasingly more inclusive to a broader cross section of our community.

This style of infrastructure isn’t designed solely to cater for those of us already riding on our busy roads. It provides a safer environment for the over 60% of Australians who say they would ride more if they felt it was safe to do so. In this context Frome Street is clearly doing its job.

What makes the outcome of this report so encouraging is that the bikeway is not even completed. In effect, we have a report identifying strong bicycle usage with negligible impact to motorists, on an unfinished asset that disappears into the general traffic sprawl on the northern part of the city. Imagine its contribution to the city when completed.

While some Councillors have expressed concerns over increased traffic congestion, evidence from interstate and overseas provide a very different story on the ability of this type of public infrastructure to act as a driver for economic growth.

In the USA, which is arguably more car-centric than Australia, the introduction of appropriately placed separated bikeways has proven to be a boom for local business. So much so, not only are businesses winning, but residential property values along these corridors are consistently higher that the median price for the surrounding area. Sydney’s Bourke Street is often highlighted as a case in point.

Increasing evidence from the USA shows that retail shoppers arriving by bicycle spend up to 24% more per month than those arriving by car. Interestingly, while spend per trip is less than for motorists, people on bikes shop far more frequently. And let’s face it, increased customer engagement is always a terrific outcome for retailers struggling in a competitive marketplace.

In San Francisco, 66% of retailers along a newly installed bikeway confirmed that the increased number of shoppers who walk and ride had improved their business, compared to 4% who saw a decline in sales.

In large part, the reason for this is because separated bikeways effectively create a shopping destination, where people stop more frequently and engage more deeply with local traders. It is as simple as creating a pleasant environment that engages with us.

The current Frome Steet design delivers on this, compared to the alternative where potential shoppers simply drive straight through to get to the next available car park, wherever that may be.

This is not about whether cars or bikes are better. It’s about delivering transport choice to the majority of Australians who currently don’t (but want to) have access to a safer, alternative transport option other than their car.

This lack of choice actively inhibits economic benefit to our city.

In Australia, the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Infrastructure’s own modeling found that an average twenty minute bicycle commute to work fed an astonishing $21 back into the national economy through reduced health and congestion costs as well as greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Equating this economic benefit to the 10,000 cycling trips through Adelaide’s CBD each day provides a clear picture on the economic return to our community that investing in appropriate bicycle infrastructure will provide for us all.

This article originally appeared in the Advertiser on July 02.