What Happens When Mom and Pop Shops Depend on Cars?


A reader sent this photo to Streetsblog soon after we reported that Park Slope restaurateur Irene Lo Re had asked for the Fifth Avenue bike lane to be removed. According to Lo Re’s theory, which few other merchants seem to buy, the bike lane was causing delivery costs to rise. We saw this photo and thought there might be some sort of detente on the horizon. Maybe someone had reasoned with Lo Re and convinced her that a nice environment for pedestrians and cyclists is great for business at Aunt Suzie’s.

Apparently not. Lo Re appeared in the Post today, up in arms about the Park Smart pilot on Fifth Avenue, accusing the city of "killing small businesses." Park Smart charges motorists higher rates to park during the midday peak, freeing up curb space so drivers don’t spend so much time cruising for spots. Also appearing in the Post story were Joe Leopoldi, whose hardware store is not even located in the Park Smart zone, and Judi Pheiffer of Bob and Judi’s Coolectibles. These are the same handful of merchants Lo Re mentioned by name when I asked her who was opposed to the bike lane.

Catering to the parking whims of drivers strikes me as a poor business strategy for merchants in walkable, transit-rich Park Slope. It sure didn’t guarantee success for Tempo, a dining establishment on Fifth and Carroll. They closed their doors for good a few days after I took this photo right outside their entrance.


  • The real irony for me is that almost all of those restaurants make their own deliveries by bike and instead of trying to make that process easier, faster and safer for their employees, they spend their time agitating to make life more difficult for the people who deliver their food and ride around their neighborhood. There’s no reason at all why a street designed for the benefit of small businesses must also be designed exclusively for cars.

  • Study finds that removing parking to install bike lanes or widen sidewalk would benefit businesses on Bloor: check this link ( http://spacing.ca/wire/2009/02/18/study-finds-that-removing-parking-to-install-bike-lanes-or-widen-sidewalk-would-benefit-businesses-on-bloor/ ) for more information.

  • Maybe Irene drives to work and is worried that the bike lane will make is harder for her to find a spot.

    I live in Park Slope and see so many merchants and the staff of medical offices running out to feed the meters during the day.

    These metered spots are for they customers, clients and patients. They are ruining their own businesses.

  • @CU,

    No, Irene’s a transit rider. Her objections to the bike lane appear to be based solely on their perceived effect on ticketing of delivery vehicles.

  • W.O.


    Maybe these businesses want to make it easy for their customers and vendors who drive to their location. Is it wrong to drive somewhere?

  • rah

    Is there a list of businesses that oppose bike lanes somewhere? I live on 5th Ave and use the bike lane almost every day during my commute. It would be nice to know which local businesses are against the bike lane; I would be happy to take my dollars elsewhere. There is a tradeoff for businesses catering to car drivers at the expense of bike riders.

  • Rah,

    Not as far as I know, but I have been working on a list of businesses that abuse bike lanes and shipping companies and other organizations that refuse to take action on bike lane issues.

  • W.O.: No one is saying it’s “wrong” to drive. What we were saying is that it’s wrong to artificially deflate the price people should pay for parking. In reality, charging market rates for on-street parking won’t depress business. As numerous studies have shown, only around 5 percent of shoppers on the Park Slope’s Fifth Ave. have driven there. By keeping on-street parking rates low, we’re simply keeping much-needed money out of the coffers of infrastructure.

    Meanwhile, Bob and Judi’s views are just plain wrong. The two of them live five blocks from their store. They live and walk all over the neighborhood. If they really think people are driving to their shop, they’re either grossly misinformed or delusional. Either way, it’s not helping the situation, and theirs is a sentiment with which most people in the neighborhood do not agree.

    It isn’t wrong to drive; it’s wrong to assume that these businesses are supported by people driving in a very transit-rich neighborhood. They aren’t.

  • latron

    A little headline adjustment suggestion: It should be “What Happens When Mom and Pop Shops CLAIM TO Depend on Cars?” Did the restaurants in question do any survey of their own clientele before going after bikes? Do they have any idea of how their customers actually arrive, or is it the blind assumption that more cars = more business?

  • Eric

    There is only one word to describe Irene Lo Re, hypocrite.

    She is against bike lanes in her area, but has no problems offering free air to cyclists to attract potential customers. I only wish I lived in the area so I could put up a sign next to her free air sign, alerting people to her anti-bicycle lane stance and bring my own air pump for free use. Then lets see how many cyclists stop at her store.

  • Streetsman

    Problem: Not enough curbside parking spaces available for shoppers who want to drive.

    Solution: Raise cost of parking to increase number of available spaces.

    Merchant response? “Why would a customer pay that amount just to park when they could go to a big box store and park for free instead?”

    Answer: Because, unlike now, there will actually be a place for them to park.

    Drivers are pretty much not shopping on 5th Avenue at all now – they are going to the big box stores. If you raise the cost of parking so they actually have some place to park, they might start shopping there more. And because cars won’t be circling the blocks looking for open spaces, traffic will move better. In all honesty it’s not that complicated an idea and it’s totally skewed to making the drivers experience of shopping better.

    The day that the cost of curbside parking on 5th Avenue is high enough that every inch of curb isn’t completely occupied by cars and delivery trucks every minute of the day will be a glorious one for local businesses.

    They shouldn’t call this plan “Park Smart.” They should call it “Shoppers’ Privilege”. Or something that indicates it is basically a service to entice driving customers of local businesses.

  • Allan

    You guys need to get AAA on bikers side like it is in Oregon


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