Walk Your Way to Wealth: The Impact of Walking on Local Businesses

Yolanda Savage-Narva is campaign director at America Walks, an America Bikes partner organization.

Elected officials prioritize boosting local economies and creating more jobs. Local business owners and retailers consistently ponder how to get people in their doors to grow their businesses. The solution to both problems could be as simple as the most basic form of human transportation: walking.

Photo courtesy Alliance for Biking & Walking

Walking provides numerous benefits. Daily walking is a great way to incorporate physical activity into our lives. It promotes emotional and physical well being and increases social interactions. Walking is a viable mode of transportation for shorter distances and a great way to shrink environmental footprints.

Not least of all, boosting a community’s walkability can have a major impact on the economic success of local business owners and retailers.

Studies show that business owners and retailers that are accessible by multiple modes of transportation — like walking and transit — have greater economic success over the long term. Just this year, a study by the New York City Department of Transportation showed that making a neighborhood more attractive for walking by turning an underused parking area into a pedestrian plaza helped increase retail sales at nearby small businesses by 179%.


Image courtesy NYC DOT

That’s right: better walking nearly tripled local business.

Of course, local business owners cannot boost neighborhood walkability on their own. It takes a community of traffic engineers, local elected officials, urban planners, and private developers to support and develop safe, aesthetically pleasing infrastructure that will attract people to walk by, stop in, and purchase from neighborhood stores.

Artistic_Crosswalk-570.jpgPhoto courtesy Alliance for Biking & Walking

Public health, transportation, and land use policies at the national, state and local levels play a huge role in promoting more walkable communities. Complete Streets policies in state, local, and regional departments help ensure that construction projects plan to accommodate all users. And state and local pedestrian plans — like Oregon’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan — and guides — like the Mid-America Regional Council guide — provide direction and guidance for local elected officials who want to prioritize walkability for better business.

When we focus on building great main streets for walking, local businesses see the benefits.

If you agree that walking is a great public investment, join America Walks by signing our Vision Statement for a Walkable America.

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