Want Amazon’s new HQ in your town? Must have bike lanes, says Amazon

September 19, 2017

by Michael Andersen, PlacesForBikes staff writer

7th Avenue in Seattle, just outside Amazon’s flagship there. Photo courtesy Seattle Department of Transportation.

Amazon may be looking for a second city to call home, but here’s one thing it is determined to export from Seattle: bike lanes.

The online retailer’s Sept. 7 announcement that it’s looking for a site for its “second headquarters” has turned millions of heads and great interest from cities looking for a chance at its jobs engine. But here’s a line in the company’s request for proposals that not everyone has noticed yet: “Include connectivity options: sidewalks, bike lanes, trams, metro, bus, light rail, train, and additional creative options to foster connectivity between buildings/facilities.”

For big employers like Amazon, locating in a neighborhood with good bikeways makes good business sense. More bike infrastructure means more biking, which means healthier, happier workers; salaries that go further, thanks to lower commuting costs; and millions of dollars that don’t have to be spent on garage or surface parking.

Five years ago, cutting the ribbon on Chicago’s groundbreaking Dearborn Street protected bike lane, Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a challenge along exactly these lines — specifically to Seattle, in fact.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012. Photo: Steven Vance, Streetsblog Chicago. Caption: Tom Fucoloro, Seattle Bike Blog.

“The City of Chicago moved from tenth to fifth of most bike-friendly cities in the country [according to Bicycling magazine] in one year,” Emanuel said. “In the same year the City of Chicago moved from fifteenth to tenth worldwide in startup economy… You cannot be for a startup, high-tech economy and not be pro-bike. [In Seattle and Portland] I want them to be envious because I expect not only to take all of their bikers but I also want all the jobs that come with this.”

Five years later, Chicago is being cited as a strong contender for Amazon’s new headquarters, in part because of its unmatched pool of skilled workers.

Wherever Amazon lands, Chicago is among many cities who’ve been investing in their future economies by dedicating space on their streets to low-stress biking. It seems likely that one of those cities is about to see a major payoff.

(Thanks to Randy LoBasso and the Harvard Business Review for the tip.)

PlacesForBikes helps U.S. communities build better biking, faster. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about building all-ages biking networks. Story tip? Write michael@peopleforbikes.org.

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