Bikes Bring Bucks: 6 Ways Bicycling Benefits Businesses & Local Economies

May 19, 2015

During the month of May we are celebrating the U.S. Bicycle Route System and successes in improving bicycle travel conditions nationwide. This week we’re focusing on how bicycling benefits businesses and economies and as you’ll see, no matter what kind of cycling you do, the numbers speak for themselves.

Whether you’re riding a bicycle for transportation or recreation, in a city or in the countryside, on a protected bike lane or a rural highway, studies show that bicycling is good for business and economies. 

  1. Bicycling creates jobs.

    • People who ride bikes create jobs in the bicycle industry, the tourism industry, and retail.

    • Bicycling construction projects create twice as many jobs as regular road maintenance projects - 14.4 jobs created for on-street bike lanes vs. 7.4 jobs for road repairs and upgrades for every $1 million spent. (p. 2)

  2. Cyclists spend more and stay longer than other motorized tourists and commuters.

    • People who travel by bicycle spend more than those who travel by motorized vehicle because they move more slowly and spend more nights in an area, need to stop more often for food, water, and services, and tend to spend more locally (motorized tourists spend much of their trip budget on gas expenses).

    • In Portland, Oregon, a study found that while people who drive to establishments spend more per visit, people who bike visit more often and spend more overall.

    • A Montana study on touring cyclists found that visiting cyclists spend more per day than other types of visitors - an average of $75- $103 per day versus $58 per day. Numerous studies have found that cyclists tend to have high discretionary income, because more retirees are taking up cycling. The Economist reported that “cycling is the new golf” in the professional networking world as well.

  3. Employees who bicycle save businesses money on health insurance costs and increased productivity.

    • Quality Bicycle Products runs a health benefits program for employees and found a $200,000 savings in reduced health care claims for the company’s health insurance provide from cyclists who participate. Healthy employees are also more productive employees and the cycling program saves QBP about $300,000 in lost productivity per year. QBP pays employees $3 for each day they cycle to work, which ends up only costing the company $45,000 to maintain the program – clearly a worthwhile investment.

  4. Bicycle parking is cheaper and a more efficient use of space than car parking.

    • One parking space costs businesses $15,000 - $25,000; a bike rack costs about $150 - $500. Cities set parking requirements based on the peak demand for parking in suburban, car-centric areas, which result in an excess of off-street parking. We’ve all seen huge, empty or mostly empty parking lots, which have inspired a Parking Crater Contest in which people submit photos of the “parking craters” in their cities. It’s estimated that parking requirements cost the public $127 billion in 2002 (see Donald Shoup’s study, The High Cost of Free Parking, published in 2005). Incentivizing active commuting and transit instead of driving can help reduce the demand for parking spaces, save everyone a lot of money, and free up space for more economically efficient uses, like, say, more local businesses.

  5. Bicycle infrastructure has a significant return on investment.

    • New York City found up to 49% increase in retail sales when the city installed the first protected bicycle lane in the U.S. on 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. (p. 4)

    • Expanding Union Square North to include a protected bike lane and a pedestrian plaza resulted in 49% fewer commercial vacancies (compared to 5% more borough-wide). (p. 6)

    • The Pikes Peak region in Colorado receives $1.80 to $2.70 for every dollar spent on improving cycling infrastructure and safety. A recent study estimates that the region brings in $28 million from bicycle tourism and as the Gazette article states, “With a two- or three-fold return on investments, the question isn't "why," Davies said. "That's an easy one for me. You say, 'Why wouldn't you?'"

  6. Bicycle-friendly cities and communities are attracting young people, which are attracting businesses.

Bicycle friendly business programs

Bicycle friendly business programs are emerging around the country and the world as more communities and businesses realize the economic benefits of appealing to cyclists.

National

The League of American Bicyclists runs the national Bicycle Friendly Business program, which recognizes businesses for providing “a more welcoming atmosphere for bicycling employees, customers, and the community.” Businesses can be recognized at the platinum, gold, silver, and bronze levels for their efforts.

State

Oregon now has a statewide Bicycle Friendly Business Program, run by Travel Oregon, which certifies bicycle friendly businesses and provides all participating businesses with a Bike Friendly toolkit, stickers, window clings and the option to purchase a customized Bike Friendly sign. The Bike Friendly sign lets cyclists know the business is bicycle friendly and shows what kinds of amenities they offer (ex: bike repair, courtesy locks, showers, etc.).

Local

Many cities are now offering their own Bicycle Friendly Business programs. Long Beach, California spearheaded a Bicycle Friendly Business District program to help boost business by incentivizing businesses to appeal to cyclists and incentivizing visitors to shop locally by bicycle. Bike racks and corrals and bike lanes have been installed to encourage cycling, businesses can use cargo bikes for delivery services, and every Saturday visitors can receive deals at more than 170 businesses in Long Beach  when they bicycle instead of drive. Tampa, Florida and Kansas City, Missouri have also created Bicycle Friendly Business programs.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of how bicycling benefits business – find out more in these articles and resources.

Did we miss one? Please comment on this post and share additional resources that support bicycling's positive impact on business and local economies.  

Photos by Greg Siple, Carol Tannenbaum, and Michael Clark.

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BUILDING THE U.S. BICYCLE ROUTE SYSTEM is posted by Ginny Sullivan and Saara Snow of the Travel Initiatives Department and focuses on news related to the emerging U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS).

The 2015 Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. Campaign runs through May 31, 2015. All donations are tax deductible and support Adventure Cycling's organizing efforts and technical assistance for the U.S. Bicycle Route System. The campaign is supported by Adventure Cycling members, bicycle industry partners, bicycle clubs, and cyclists across North America.

Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. is generously sponsored by Exodus Travels, Planet Bike, Ortieb USA, SKS USA, Town Pump Hotel Group, and the Knickerbikers Bicycle Touring Club of San Diego. In-kind sponsors include Bar Mitts, Bike2Power, BikeFlights.com, Bike Touring News, Club Ride, Cygolite, Ortlieb USA, Osprey Packs, Planet Bike, Revelate Designs, Road Holland Cycling Apparel, Rudy Project, Sierra Trading Post, and TiGr Locks

Over the years, the U.S. Bicycle Route System has been supported in part by grants from the Tawani Foundation, Lazar Foundation, the SRAM Cycling Fund, and Climate Ride.

Learn more about the campaign and make a donation at adventurecycling.org/beapartofit.

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