Posted December 2nd 2010 at 11:45 pm by
in Car Parking to Bike Parking in Melbourne, Thesis Chronicles

Changing Car Parking to Bike Parking in Melbourne

This post is part of the Thesis Chronicles series.

Several years ago I was spurred on to investigate why there weren’t more bike parking spaces in front of my favourite indie cinema in Lygon Street in Melbourne. Given that I was working at the time as a transport planner with the City Council I really had no excuse for my lack of answers. Upon further investigation I uncovered the truth- that it was too difficult fit more bike parks on the already crowded footpath and too difficult to look at touching car parking spaces in this busy commercial strip unless there was a robust economic justification for doing so.

So under the auspices of my Master of Urban Planning thesis I looked into the expenditure patterns of visitors to the area, and discovered that there was an economic justification for turning car parking spaces into bike parking spaces.

Public space used for parking in Lygon Street is predominantly (99% of it) used for car parking. Only 1% of public space used for parking is used for bike parking. This felt inherently unfair to me, so whilst questioning the use of public space generally I was most specifically concerned how parking space could be used more equitably in line with visitor needs but also have the spin off of supporting expenditure in the area too.

Looking at a case-study from Lygon Street in Melbourne, this is what I found:

A Case for Reallocating Parking to Bikes

Firstly, let’s be clear: car drivers do spend more money shopping when they park than cyclists do. But because bikes are more space-efficient the space used to park bikes produces more economic activity in a shopping strip than if it were used by a car.

• Space used for car parking is less efficient at generating expenditure than bike parking

It may initially seem logical to conclude that if car users spend more, then public space should be dominated by car parking to attract more ‘high spenders’ to make the retail precinct successful and vibrant. However, the relative space efficiency of each mode needs to be considered. Table 1 shows that average cyclists’ expenditure in Lygon Street is 73% of a car users’, however the space required to park a bike is 12% of the space required to park a car. There are much smaller financial returns which result from the investment in land for car parking compared by bike parking although the potential for increases in bike trips may be limited in current circumstances. Each square metre of space allocated to cars reaps just $6 per hour in expenditure, whereas each square metre of space allocated to bikes reaps five times as much ($31 per hour).

Table 1: Comparison of average expenditure and space efficiency

Mode $ spent per hour parking space measurement hourly revenue generated per m2*
BIKE $47 1.5m2 $31
CAR $65 13m2 $6

*Based on car occupancy of 1.2 people per car and bike occupancy of 1 person per bike.

Put in another way:

• Incrementally replacing car parking with bike parking makes economic sense

The financial benefits of replacing car parking with bike parking only makes sense where people cycle. Replacing car parking with bike parking which is then unoccupied would reduce the amount of expenditure derived from that public space. So how many car parking spaces should be removed and replaced with bike parking?

It’s fairly laborious and inexact to determine precisely, however the best bet is to take an area which has a high demand for bike parking, and replace two car spaces to begin with and see if demand then justifies more.

In 2008 the Melbourne City Council constructed a semi-permanent curb-outstand, removing two car parking spaces for bike parking spaces. Some months later the Council made it permanent with the curb-outstand shown in the image below. The project was extremely successful, with the bike parking allocated full at peak periods, from about 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and very full around lunch time also.

• Further Reading/Investigation

Streetfilms features a number of projects which have achieved this reallocation of public space using semi-permanent structures. Here’s an example from San Francisco.

My full thesis can be accessed here.

I gave a summary of the project at the Bike Futures Conference 2009, $ Value of Bike Parking.

The case has also been written up in the academic journal Australian Planner:

Lee and March (2010), Recognising the Economic Role of Bikes: Sharing Parking in Lygon Street, Carlton, Australian Planner

4 responses to “Changing Car Parking to Bike Parking in Melbourne”

  1. […] their heads out of the sand and realised there's an economic benefit to doing so: Melbourne: CoLab Radio Groningen (NL): Global : Ideas : Bank – Groningen, the car-free city for bikes Twitter : […]

  2. Dave Holladay says:

    The economics was developed in EC paper Cycling the way ahead in Towns & Cities, Cyclists spend 20% more per sq m of parking. Cycloing also reduced journey times ‘by public transport’


  3. Cykel says:

    Hi Alison,

    Your comments are interesting, though your findings are obviously based more on the space efficiency of bicycles, rather than the $ spend of people on bikes – perhaps something that didn’t quite need a thesis written on it to determine. ( I must admit now, I haven’t read the entire thesis)

    What I did find most interesting though is the SF concept of changing parking spaces. Park day is something that was brought to my attention some time ago, and now, this is taking it one step further. Can you imagine a cafe in Lygon St, or Bridge Rd, or even in Collins St taking up a parking spot. Outrage, unjust, unfair would be the call from around. Given the recent problems with the clearways in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, it would take an entire shopping strip to take up the call to arms, not just a single shop. Then again, if just one person wanted to change the world, then who knows what could happen.

    Thanks for your post – perhaps that one person is you?!

  4. Alison Lee says:

    Hi Cykel,

    Indeed you are right- the argument works based on the space efficiency of bikes. Part of the role of government in these areas is to program space to maximise economic activity.

    The SF example is great where there is a shop who can champion the installation of bike parks- but in cases where this is lacking then some hard data on expenditure and demand is needed.


  5. […] The Economics of Changing Car Parking to Bike Parking – A study demonstrating that in commercial districts where both bicycle and car parking space is scarce, it is in the best interests of the merchants to re-allocate car parking spaces to bicycles, because per unit area, bike parking spaces generate more sales revenue.  Despite this, many commercial districts allocate public parking area at something like 100:1 cars:bikes. […]

  6. […] are a lot of studies which show bicycles are great for local economies, the environment, our health, our home values and most importantly your own wallet; and while […]

  7. […] […]

  8. Andy Korr says:


    A great line of research.

    Be interesting to see something similar comparing car, bicycle and streetcar(tram)spend relative to curbside space. ie: “how come Malls have cars on the outside?”

    Keep up the great work


  9. […] buy what they want and bring it home on the bike. Only folks in cars can do that. “Changing Car Parking to Bike Parking in Melbourne” indicates that may not be the case. For the full details please take a look at […]