Is Citi Bike Already Changing NYC Retail?
The physical environment of a city has a huge effect on the way that its inhabitants get around, spend money, and live their lives. New York, and Brooklyn in particular, is no stranger to civic experimentation with transportation alternatives to cars; the density of this city and the frustration caused by parking alone makes proposing vehicular alternatives much more than an academic exercise. Experimentation can occasionally have great side-effects, such as the result of a bike lane. The NYC DOT reported last year that the installation of a bike lane can boost retail sales by 49%. Bike lanes, applied in more places, can drastically alter the face of retail in New York.
If bikes are environment-changing forces, then Citi Bike is a hurricane. But is this program the kind of transformative force that some are selling them as? Will they change the way that a significant portion of New Yorkers get from their apartments to work, to an art gallery, to a restaurant? Will it change the way they shop? Will we ever see bike-only streets in NYC, the way that Fulton Mall has bus-only streets? Will that change spread to many socioeconomic classes? In ten years will it seem normal to see a Louis Vuitton basket on the front of a three-speed cruiser next to a taped-up mountain bike delivering chinese food?
Will Citi Bike change retail?
It turns out they’ve already begun.
The first effect of the program is somewhat predictable. Local bike shops near Central Park, part of whose business relies on throngs of tourists renting their bicycles to tour the park in the summertime, have seen their rental numbers drop by 63% this summer. On a good day. Turns out that tourists can’t resist the ease and simplicity of the new shiny blue bikes.
Other businesses have begun to adapt. This bodega on Clark St. in Brooklyn Heights has seen the light and is now offering bicycle helmets alongside cereal and cookies, for $20 a pop. This could be an omen of larger changes to come, and they might not be the kind that NYC’s bike shops were looking forward to. Perhaps instead of sending newly-converted cyclists to the bike shop, Citi Bike will encourage more retailers who previously had nothing to do with cycling to stock up on basic components, as the ubiquity of cycling rises.
Cycling in New York City has increased by 260% between the years 2000 and 2012. With the addition of 6,000 easily-accessible bikes in 2013, we won’t be surprised to see that number spike. And along with it, we hope to hear the cash registers ringing a little louder.
Here’s a snapshot of new listings and CRE requirements in Brooklyn and Queens:
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