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Ride green, save green: PBOT coupon program looks to boost bike business

Posted by on November 28th, 2012 at 10:43 am

Green lanes on SW Stark-13

Businesses along SW Stark.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

One of the Great Myths that somehow continues to follow urban bicycling around is that when you redesign a street to improve bike access, it will automatically be bad for adjacent businesses. This is of course completely absurd. But even with studies and common sense easily disproving such notions, the myth persists (particularly among business groups that use the idea as leverage).

This myth is partly why the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) goes out of their way to help and work with business owners whenever they do a project that improves bicycling. On Stark and Oak streets downtown — where they’ve painted an entire lane green and made it a bike lane — they wanted to make sure adjacent business owners were on board.

Before the new green lanes were completed and made public, PBOT staffers walked the Stark/Oak corridors and talked to every single ground floor business and even those on side streets. According to PBOT, staffers made 65 in-person visits and mailed a fact sheet about the project to over 500 businesses.

The fact sheet had one page describing the project and one page titled, “Transportation and Your Business” that outlined all the resources and contact information a business owner would need to report concerns and tap into PBOT services. Another major aspect of the business outreach plan was a coupon program.

Print, clip and use! (PDF)

The coupon program was managed by PBOT’s Transportation Options division through their SmartTrips Business program and it was designed to promote businesses along Stark and Oak. It was free for businesses to participate. PBOT promoted the coupons to an estimated 30,000 Portland residents.

“We decided this was a good way to add value to an active transportation project in downtown,” said PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson. “We felt that adding a coupon promotion would help demonstrate the value of the new facilities for adjacent businesses.”

In the end, nine businesses along Stark and Oak participated. If you want to help show them that the new green lanes are good for business, consider printing out the coupons (PDF) and using them for yourself (I highly recommend Karam Lebanese Cuisine!). Act fast, some of them expire on 12/15.

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Is PBOT already doing comprehensive economic assessments both before AND after implementing bicycle projects so they can conclusively show that bike projects are not hurting business?

It’s useful to check with business owners afterwards but for hard unimpeachable data it needs to be a 3rd party snap shot before and after.


they keep saying that biking is good for local businesses, but what kind of businesses? I would guess that places like gas stations and automotive repair shops would suffer a loss of business when an auto lane is taken away for a bike lane…


All this outreach sounds kinda expensive. Does business have to like everything that happens?


I had a really nice meal at Mother’s. I point it out to tourists who ask about restaurants for sit down meals.