My Turn: Bikes are essential to future of Main Street
It has been argued that cyclists are irrelevant to the future of downtown. But encouraging more people to bike more often will be essential to creating a thriving downtown, and here’s why:
Going to buy something on a bike is more pleasant, healthier and economical than by car. People know this and more and more people want to use bikes to get around every year. If more people shop by bike more often, they will tend to go to places closer and more convenient rather than to a mall at the end of a very bike-unfriendly strip. If Main Street wants more business, it should be encouraging people to shop by bike.
Every parking space can fit 12 parked bikes. If Main Street wants to fix its parking “problem,” it should encourage more people to bike.
Main Street will be more successful if it’s a nice place to sit, have lunch or go for a walk. More people on bikes would reduce the traffic, exhaust and noise on Main Street and make it a more congenial spot. If Main Street businesses are serious about creating an environment that shoppers enjoy, they will encourage more people to bike.
People on bikes save money and thus have more money to spend downtown. They also save the city money by wearing out the roads less, so other taxpayers will have more money to spend downtown.
A bike-friendly Main Street gives downtown a leg up over the strip malls and Amazon.coms of the world. A bike-friendly Main Street gives downtown something those other places can’t offer: a pleasant meeting place, a community center, a pedestrian park, and thriving – service-oriented – businesses. But to get more people on bikes, downtown has to help encourage people who don’t feel safe biking in traffic the way it’s configured. It has to actively work to make Main Street more bike-friendly.
(Nicholas Coates is chairman of the Central New Hampshire Bicycling Coalition.)