Inside Tucson Business published a couple stories earlier this month related to the streetcar and bicycling safety.

The first was a news story about bike safety and the streetcar.

The second was an editorial by Inside Tucson Business, which called for banning bikes along the streetcar line.

Here’s a snippet from the editorial:

There are several spots along the streetcar route in which there is clearly not enough room for everyone – something’s got to give.

It is only a matter of time before some inattentive motorist on Fourth Avenue doors a bicyclist and sends the rider into the path of the streetcar.

But none of the solutions are politically easy. Ban bikes in a bike-crazy town and a caca storm of galactic proportions will ensue. Try banning parked cars on Fourth Avenue or Congress and the business community will tear city officials from their offices and impale them on parking meters (metaphorically, of course).

Either of those politically difficult decisions will create exactly what the city doesn’t want right now – hard feelings about the streetcar.

So instead, it’s marching toward a ribbon cutting with fingers crossed that nothing bad happens once full operation starts and it has time to find some small amount of consensus about what to do about areas of the route that city Councilman Steve Kozachik described as “pinch points.”

And that may work, if the city is lucky. If it’s unlucky, wrongful death lawyers and insurance companies may force the city to fix that which it’s ignoring now.

From our point of view, the easiest and most practical solution is to ban bicycles along the streetcar route, as theUrban Land Institute recommended in December in its report on downtown development.

That won’t be a very happy discussion or a painless debate, but better to argue now than weep later.

The editor of ITB asked me if I’d be willing to pen a response to their editorial.

I was and I did. My editorial, Bikes good for Tucson business, banning them is not, was published yesterday afternoon.

Since Inside Tucson Business is a business news magazine, I tried to make a compelling case as to why bikes and not parking is more important to local merchants’ bottom line.

Here’s a snippet:

At a time when the rest of the country and world is realizing the economic value bicyclists provide to local businesses, ITB is suggesting removing thousands of two-wheeled customers who bike along the streetcar route every day. The insinuation is that drivers and parking are more important to businesses than cyclists.

Instead, the city should remove some or all parking along the route to provide safe and separated bicycle infrastructure, which will also benefit merchants along the streetcar line.

Study after study show that from an economic perspective, bicyclists are far more valuable to business than parking spaces and the motorists who use them.

One recent study out of Portland suggests customers who arrive by bicycle spend more than customers who drive. On average, each person who arrived by bicycle spent almost 24 percent more per month at local businesses than their motoring counterpart.

A second study in Toronto had similar results, finding cyclists visited more often than other transportation options and spent more each month.

Local businesses along Ninth Avenue in New York City saw a 49 percent increase in retail sales after protected bike lanes were installed. Sales throughout Manhattan only increased three percent during the same time period. Additionally, retail vacancies along First and Second Avenues — which also received separated bike lanes — decreased by 49 percent.

Check out the rest of my editorial and let me know what you think.

7 thoughts on “Ban bikes along the Streetcar? Read my editorial against it”
  1. I like it. A few citations would help, but it gets major points across in a manner that invites understanding.

    To the apprehensive drivers out there: We fear losing parking because we hate looking for parking. Well, what other things do we hate? Driving along narrow lanes crowded with parked cars, for one thing. Parallel parking for another. Once folks know where else to look, they won’t really miss it. There will be parking somewhere. You might even get to ride that snazzy new street car you paid for. 😀

    And remember, how pleasant a street is is inverse to the amount of motor vehicles on it. It’ll be OK. You’ll find you actually enjoy being there. Because let’s face it, street parking sucks, and you know that’s true.

  2. So I really don’t get the point to this. Is it the suggestion that people who currently bike to this area – through this area – should start to drive to – through – this area?  Are people who live more than a few blocks off the streetcar route going to walk to the streetcar, then pay to ride a few blocks? The streetcar is designed to serve a very limited group; more limited than is going to save any business. It’s either pay to ride or pay to park…which is the bigger group? 
    If bikes are banned, cyclists are banned. But if parking is moved (not banned), motorists can still get there. The city created the imbalance on this route and needs to accept the responsibility and make the accommodation to right the situation. It doesn’t have to fear a backlash….it can be done.
    The effort seems to be to make downtown, 4th Ave. and Main Gate one congruous district. But there hasn’t been any outreach to 4th Ave. to include the area in downtown events. Like 4th Ave is the competition or something and is to be disliked. That really won’t work, will it.

  3. Mike, I appreciate your putting together a nice succinct summary of some of the data on the impact of bikeable infrastructure on businesses. It’s such a big “duh” to those of us who actually walk and bike around, that we’re more likely to stop in if not in a car (not to mention more likely to know the business exists if it’s pleasant to ride past it); I’m glad you took on the timely chore of giving it voice in local media.

  4. 4th Ave. from University to 9th St. should be a “No Car” zone.  No car parking and no car traffic.  It has been done in many places and it works great.  The street becomes an open mall and businesses thrive.

  5. 3wheeler  Name 3 and cite data supporting the long term success of these car fee zones.  Mackinaw Island doesn’t count.

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