2012-10-01

Bikes Aren't Just Good For You, They're Good For The Economy, Too

The information in this hand graphic makes it clear that spending money on bike infrastructure can have far-reaching positive economic impacts.

By now, we all know that cycling is good for health, fitness, cutting road accidents, reducing carbon emissions, and increasing energy security (and so on, and on). But what about biking’s economic impact--its cyclonomics, if you will?

This graphic, from the League of American Bicyclists, highlights studies from across the country showing the positive benefits.

Click to zoom.

You can see, for example, that bike recreation and tourism contributes an estimated $924 million a year to Wisconsin, plus $409 million in health benefits. Or that biking generates $400 million for Iowa, according to the University of Northern Iowa, and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Or that bike tourism brings in $60 million for North Carolina’s Outer Banks area.

The League put the map together to publicize a recent report by its policy director Darren Flusche. Flusche says the most important pieces of evidence for bicycling’s economic impact come from business district studies, including ones for downtown Memphis and Long Beach, California. Research (PDF) covering Portland, Oregon, meanwhile, showed that bicyclists spent more over a month than either motorists or walkers.

"Those arguments are critical for convincing businesses to allow bike infrastructure in front of their shops, because they are very aware of parking, and they have the perception that most people arrive by car. That’s not always the case. You can fit many more bikes in a spot than cars," Flusche says.

"You can see that in a vibrant business district that there’s a lot of foot traffic and bicycle traffic, and you instinctively understand that it’s really good for business. But you need these numbers to have credibility when you are making the case."

Bike infrastructure has also been associated with favorable levels of job creation compared to other forms of transport. A study last year by Heidi Garrett-Peltier at the Political Economy Research Institute, looking at 58 separate projects, found that $1 million invested in bike infrastructure produced 11.4 jobs, against 10 jobs for the same amount invested in pedestrian schemes, and 7.8 jobs for road-only projects.

Flusche concedes that many of the leading-edge bike projects are in liberal bastions where you might expect an emphasis on biking. The League’s top three most "bicycle friendly communities" are Boulder, Colorado, Davis, California, and Portland, Oregon. But he also sees hopeful signs in less predictable parts of the country too, including Memphis and places like Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"There are the usual suspects, but if you keep looking down the list, there is an increasing number of places in the American South and West that are getting in on the fun as well."

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1 Comments

  • Seekloop

    Nice photo of all those bikes in my city: Utrecht, The Netherlands, Europe
    It's just the tip of the iceberg!