IT’S AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE FAIL TO SEE THE POINT WHEN IT COMES TO BICYCLES. Bicycling is BIG business. We’re so focused on giant highway projects, massive train upgrades and huge airport expansions we tend to overlook bike lanes as a major economic strategy.
Bicycling in America generates $133 billion dollars annually. That’s goods and services used by a record 60 million bicyclists in the US.
Those bike dollars support employment for 1.1 million Americans.
Tax revenue created by bicyclists on the federal, state and local level is about $17.7 billion per year.
Think about all the positive implications of a bicycling nation.
In our economy, the public mostly has sedentary jobs. They sit in front of computer terminals all day long. Bicycling gets those legs and hearts pumping. Burns up calories. Moves muscles.
We also tend to drive our cars a lot. Everywhere. Riding a bicycle to work, or to a store or a restaurant cuts down the number of vehicles on a street. Traffic is a major nightmare in every city and town across America. Building trains, adding buses and licensing more cabs is not the only solution. Give people an option to bike instead.
That massive number of cars we drive continues to create a massive amount of pollution. Especially in cities. Creating ways to get more people on bicycles certainly puts less carbon into the atmosphere and cuts down on that brown haze overhead.
Add bike sharing stations near train and bus terminals. That encourages more people to use mass transit because they know they can hop on a bike to reach their destination.
So, why isn’t this nation focused on building more bike lanes? Adding more bike parking racks and sprucing up our bicycling infrastructure overall? People for Bikes reports that 47% of American say they want more bike paths in their community.
Sure, it always comes down to money. But in this case, the money works in our favor.
Consider the economic impact from bicycling in the following states. (Source: Study by the League of American Bicyclists and Alliance for Biking & Walking).
Colorado – this state is gaining a reputation as THE BICYCLING STATE. The Colorado Dept. of Transportation said that back in the year 2000 bicycling contributed $1 billion to the economy. This state is in gear when it comes to promoting bicycling as a lifestyle and a vacation.
Wisconsin – a study four years ago said bicycling contributed $924 million to the state’s economy. This state, by the way, has 20% share of bicycling manufacturing in the US. That’s nearly a cool billion generated from a simple two-wheeled device.
Minnesota – the spending generated by bicycles is estimated at $261 million.
Vermont – they estimate that biking and walking creates at least 1,400 jobs, $41 million in paychecks and $83 million in revenue.
Maine – this is a one of the top ten bicycle friendly states in the nation and their efforts paid off as it generated $66 million in 2001 with their popularity as a place for bicycle tourism. Imagine how much that annual revenue has increased in the past 14 years.
Oh, there’s more. While some states are not pedaling to success, many cities and town are jumping on the bike path on their own. And it’s paying off big time for them. Build a bike path, people use it.
Portland, OR, officials said when they did a study in 2008, the found that bicycles generated about $90 million in economic activity from retail, rentals and repairs.
Boulder, CO, estimates that bikes generate $52 million annually in just that one mid-size city alone. That’s incredible.
In New York City, after the Department of Transportation added protected bike lanes along Ninth Avenue, retail sales went up 49%. Wow. What a great and inexpensive way to stimulate an economy. (By the way, if you have people bicycling past your business, it’s smart to stick a bike parking rack out front to get their attention…and spending dollars).
Don’t forget the enormous dollar savings in health benefits. This is another major factor that needs to be taken into consideration. More people bicycling makes for more healthy citizens and fewer citizens in hospital beds.
Businesses are starting to get it. Want to immediately draw people to your business? Place commercial bike racks out front. Take away a parking spot or two and add a bike corral. When consumers park in front of your business, they are very likely to spend money at your business. Studies show a 15%-25% bump in sales.
Bicycle tourism is booming. What a simple way to attract tourists. Ski resorts get it. Many are adding mountain biking trails. Some states get it. Iowa’s 25-mile super cool High Trestle Trail is a perfect example of how to create a biking destination.
Europe is much older than the United States. Yet they still bicycle everywhere. For example, some experts say 50% of the people in Copenhagen bicycle to work. One out of two commuters. Why? Because it’s the most efficient way to get around.
The Department of Transportation had a $77.2 billion budget for 2014. How much of that money goes toward creating transportation systems using bikes? Probably not much. Heck when providing transportation for bicyclists, unlike trains or buses, they don’t even have to supply the seats. American bicyclists will take care of that.
You can see the economic benefit. It’s there. Time to get civic leaders on board, or better yet, on a bicycle. Use all those studies that are available to get the word out about the benefits of bike paths, bike parking racks and a bigger bicycle infrastructure.