Los Angeles pilots Bicycle-Friendly Business District

March 3, 2014

Policymakers in Los Angeles are doubling down on the idea that cyclists can boost businesses and piloting the city’s first Bicycle-Friendly Business District (BFBD). Targeting northeast LA’s main streets—N. Figueroa and Colorado, York, and Eagle Rock boulevards—the BFBD will act as the foundation for a citywide program expected to begin next year or 2016.

The program seeks to complement the city’s goals of traffic calming and “complete streets,” the urban planning idea that streets are for all users—that is, pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities, not just motorists. Complete streets support multimodal transit—public light-rail systems, protected bike lanes, and dedicated pedestrian walkways, for instance—and LA hopes that the BFBD will diversify and strengthen transit and business activity in the pilot area, chosen for its many commercially zoned corridors, existing bicycle infrastructure, and committed improvements to that infrastructure. Already the area welcomes LA’s first bike corral and hopes to add bike lanes along N. Figueroa.

Los Angeles River bike path

Bikers near the Los Angeles River. From Slobikelane.

The pilot brings together the LADOT Bike Program, Occidental College Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, and nonprofit bicycle advocacy group C.I.C.L.E., all working to create a consortium of community partners hoping to make neighborhoods in northeast LA more bike friendly. For example, the public-private partnership may sign up local businesses for maintenance responsibilities, such as providing bicycle repair stations in the area. Other examples of bicycle-friendly opportunities for businesses include offering employees bicycle toolkits or on-site showers, as well as sponsoring community rides or adopting bike paths.

The city isn’t the first in the nation to introduce a BFBD. In 2012, New York City created one in its East Village and Lower East Side neighborhoods, with another established the following year in Brooklyn. Closer to home, however, the city of Long Beach—just south of LA—has already piloted six BFBDs. Besides strengthening Long Beach’s bike infrastructure, the BFBDs now feature cargo bikes for deliveries, promotional Bike Saturdays, and Kidical Mass bike rides.

Cities may continue to come around on BFBDs, given the data resulting from bike studies. According to one report released by New York’s Department of Transportation last spring, along Manhattan’s 8th and 9th Avenues, which features protected bike lanes, retail businesses have seen a 49 percent increase in sales. Also along Manhattan’s 1st and 2nd Avenues, which offer dedicated bike lanes, the city has seen 47 percent fewer commercial vacancies. Better yet, both areas have seen substantial decreases in injuries—58 percent along 9th and 37 percent in Lower Manhattan.

And it’s not just changes for cyclists that make a difference. In Brooklyn, parking spaces were traded for patios, resulting in a 77 percent increase in seated pedestrians, with businesses fronting the patios noting a 14 percent rise in sales.

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Category: Regulations

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