Open street projects — where cars are removed and streets get used for other purposes — can be great economic generators.
Recent street closures that allowed people to dine outside, called “streeteries,” have helped many businesses survive the pandemic, when public health restrictions made indoor dining impossible. But studies have shown that bike lanes, streeteries, and other such projects can be great ways to improve and enhance downtown areas all the time, not just during a crisis. One recent study particularly highlighted the economic benefits of bike lanes.
In Wheaton, two lanes designed for car traffic were recently converted to bike lanes by the MD State Highway Administration on University Boulevard. Many local restaurants have said they support both the outdoor streeteries and the bike lanes.
Omar Lazo is the owner and manager of Los Chorros on Blueridge Avenue in Wheaton and has been a vocal advocate for making the streets of Wheaton safer and more walkable for many years. He has participated in walk audits, spoken at public hearings and expressed his frustrations over the state of sidewalks and poorly marked crosswalks repeatedly.
Lazo, who is also a Board member of the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce, thinks the new bike lanes on University are great, and attended the ribbon cutting on June 19 to celebrate with other bike riders in the area and participate in an innaugural group ride. He is also glad there’s a bike lane painted on the street in front of his restaurant but also said it has been hard to get delivery people to stop parking there.
“Bikes are a great way to get around, and I really love riding,” Lazo said. “We need to make walking and riding safer for everyone here. But we need to educate people on the value of it.”
Talking to Lazo and many other businesses in the Wheaton area inspired us to start a new social media campaign to show bike riders supporting local businesses. We encourage everyone to take bike riding selfies in front of their favorite local restaurants and shops and post them to Twitter with the hashtag #BiketoBusiness. You can also post pics on the Open Streets Montgomery Facebook group page.