Problem, research strategy, and findings: Bike lane projects on retail streets have proved contentious among merchant associations in North America, especially when they reduce on-street parking. A limited but growing number of studies, however, detect neutral to positive consequences for merchants following bike lane implementation. In 2016, the City of Toronto (Canada) removed 136 on-street parking spots and installed a pilot bike lane on a stretch of Bloor Street, a downtown retail corridor. Using a case–control and pre–post design, we surveyed merchants and shoppers to understand the impacts of the bike lanes on economic activities. We find no negative economic impacts associated with the bike lanes: Monthly customer spending and number of customers served by merchants both increased on Bloor Street during the pilot.

Takeaway for practice: Our findings are consistent with an improving economic environment at the intervention site. Downtown retail strips may therefore be suited to tolerate bike lanes and even benefit from increased retail activity. Pre and post surveys can provide valuable insights into local economic impacts of streetscape changes affecting merchants along city streets, especially where access to sales data is limited.


We could not have completed our study without the diligence and rigor of graduate students Michelle Kearns and Kelsey Carriere and our team of more than 20 research assistants from the University of Toronto.

Research Support

This study was supported by the City of Toronto, the Metcalf Foundation, the Bloor Annex Business Improvement Area, and the Korea Town Business Improvement Area.

Supplemental Material

Supplemental data for this article can be found on the publisher’s website.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Daniel Arancibia

DANIEL ARANCIBIA (daniel.arancibia@utoronto.ca) completed an MSc in planning at the University of Toronto and is an independent scholar.

Steven Farber

STEVEN FARBER (steven.farber@utoronto.ca) is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Geography at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Beth Savan

BETH SAVAN (b.savan@utoronto.ca) is senior lecturer emeritus in the Department of Geography and Planning and School of the Environment at the University of Toronto.

Yvonne Verlinden

YVONNE VERLINDEN (yverlinden@cleanairpartnership.org) is a project manager at The Center for Active Transportation at Clean Air Partnership.

Nancy Smith Lea

NANCY SMITH LEA (nsmithlea@cleanairpartnership.org) is the director of The Center for Active Transportation at Clean Air Partnership.

Jeff Allen

JEFF ALLEN (jeff.allen@utoronto.ca) is a PhD student in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto.

Lee Vernich

LEE VERNICH (lee.vernich@utoronto.ca) is the director of the Office of Research at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

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