Is Parking really so good for Business?

Following on from the release last week of an important Transport for London study on the Economic Benefits of Walking and Cycling, GoBike members have been looking at our local example of Byres Road, to see how increased provision for active travel to the area might affect local businesses. The conclusions are really heartening – in the first of two blogs, Jim Collinson looks here at parking.

Want to grow your business? You need less parking.

For businesses to grow, streets like Byres Road in Glasgow need more capacity. Here’s why traders should demand less parking, and a street designed for people, not cars.

Running a business is tough. High-street retailing is one of the toughest, and never more so than if you’re an independent shop.

Even a bustling, lively street like Byres Road sees stores and restaurants come and go far too frequently; overheads are high, margins are tight and competition fierce.

So when plans to change the street land in your overflowing inbox, including options to drastically reduce on-street parking, it’s bad news, right? But hold-up a second. Here’s why, if you want to grow your business, you need less on-street parking, not more.

450 people an hour[1]. Remember that number. That’s how many people the Byres road parking spaces can bring to the area. We’ll come back to it, but it’s worth keeping it at the forefront of your mind.


Every high street shop needs footfall, that much is obvious. But take a trip down Byres Road on a weekend and it feels very much like it’s running just about at maximum capacity. The pavements are cramped and filled with people, cars nose to tail. It’s busy.

So how do you increase foot traffic to your premises if the street is already jam-packed? There is a finite amount of road space, so the answer is to use it more efficiently.

So let’s take a look at the different transport modes that bring people to Byres Road, and break down their capacity, compared like-for-like on road space, measured in people per hour (PPH).

And before you say it, I know some of these numbers look incredible, implausible even. But they aren’t a prediction, they are a measure of capacity of different modes of transport at a peak, or burst. In other words, it’s a way for us to directly compare the relative efficiency at transporting people—customers—to and around an area, given a fixed area of public space.

Motor car lanes: these have a capacity of no more than 2000. And that’s on a really good day.[2]

Bus: tricky to estimate, but has the potential for up to 9000.[3]

The Subway: this has a capacity of around 8000 people per hour, at its peak.[4]

Bike lanes: believe it or not, they are incredibly efficient, and have the potential capacity of 14,000.[5]

And here’s the important bit …

Pavements: these have the capacity to move 19,000 per hour into and around Byres Road.[6]

Given that everyone, regardless of the transport that got them to the area in the first place, will need to use the pavements to get in and out of shops and businesses (and if you have ever spent time on Byres Road at the weekend, then you’ll know that these pavements are working at very near capacity), it’s the pavements that are the ultimate cap on how many people can get to a shop, regardless of how many parking spaces are outside. It’s the bandwidth of the street.

It doesn’t matter how many people are ferried to the area, businesses can’t grow without increasing their footfall, and it is pavement capacity that will do that.

Which brings me onto parking. Currently, Byres Road has 114 on-street parking bays.[7] If we assume a turnover time of 30 minutes (long enough for a quick shop, but not enough for a meal) and an occupancy of two people per car (generous, given the UK car occupancy average is less than this), that gives parking load of just over 450 people per hour.

That’s 450 people per hour, yet we’re currently dedicating two full lanes to it. This really goes to show the space inefficiency of on-street parking.

So, if we are to increase footfall to shops, reduce pollution, and make the place more attractive to visitors, where should the road-space come from for adding wider pavements, and cycle lanes? The maths makes it pretty obvious.

Give this same space over to pavements and you add in the region of 26,000 people per hour capacity[8]. Or as in the Space for People Byres Road proposal, split the space half and half with cycle lanes and you get 9,750 on foot and 6,400 by bike[9] moving up and down the street with ease. That’s still allowing for through traffic and buses, which would flow better without suffering the stop-start-death-by-a-thousand-parallel-parks.


To add to all of this, there is alot of evidence that shows that when people arrive by foot or on bike, they stay longer in the area, and spend more too. No parking meter clock watching, or scurrying into a shop with the engine running; people naturally drop into each business as they pass by. They shop more, and more people visit.

Plus there’s the trade concentrating effect of on-street parking. Offer a parking spot outside the door of a favourite shop, and guess where people will try and park? Often they’ll circle the block waiting for it to become free. Yet move the parking provision, and people visiting by car pass through more of the street on foot. A visit to a single shop now becomes a sales opportunity for dozens of businesses.

There are other advantages too. Like being able to offer dedicated space to those who really need it: expanded provision for disabled visitors; and proper loading bays that are built for the task.

We’ve dedicated a majority of road space to cars in a city where the majority of households do not have access to a motor vehicle. Byres Road has already reached peak car; and it’s the worse for it. Want to grow your businesses, and have a happier healthier place to live and work? Demand a street designed for people, not cars.



  1. Byres Road has 114 on-street car parking spaces, excluding disabled provision and loading bays. Based on a generous occupancy rate of 2 people per car (national average is 1.6) and a turnover rate of 30 minutes, that’s 456 people per hour parking load. This number is just for space on Byres Road itself, and does not include the many spaces on side streets and dedicated car parks adjacent to the street.
  2. Assuming UAP4 Road type, and a occupancy rate of 2 people per car.
  3. p.71 and also
  4. Each Subway train has capacity for 108 seated passengers and 165 standing. With trains arriving every 4 minutes in each direction at peak time.
  5. Botma & Papendrecht (1991). Based on this study, and calculated for comparative 3.5m lane width. Also cited in the following reports:
  6. Changing Course in Urban Transport (2011). Asian Development Bank
  7. Excluding Disabled parking, solo motorcycle bays, and loading bays.
  8. Based on two lanes of parking bays being replaced, each with a width of 2.4 metres. Assuming linear lane-width to pedestrian capacity relationship.
  9. Based on replacing existing on-street parking with 1.8 metres additional pavement width and two uni-directional cycle lanes, each 1.5 metres wide.  Real world measurements of capacity of these lanes as per this study: