Cycling Lanes Create More Jobs Than Car-Only Streets

Cycling isn’t just good for your personal health, it’s also good for economic health. A new report by the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute finds that cycling projects create 11.4 jobs for every $1 million invested — 46% more the 7.8 jobs than car-only road projects.

[E]conomic benefits include tourism and recreation-related spending (which is a boon to businesses and increases local tax revenues), and a rise in real estate values. Other benefits include higher quality of life, environmental benefits such as buffer zones to protect water sources from pollution run-off, and mitigation of flood damage. A 2008 user survey of a multi-use trail in Pennsylvania showed that over 80 percent of users purchased “hard goods” such as bikes and cycling equipment in relation to their use of the trail, and some also pur- chase “soft goods” such as drinks and snacks at nearby establishments.

The trend is similar to what we see at farmer’s markets, where people have many times the number of interactions than they do at the grocery store (all while supporting local businesses). When cyclists move through properly-designed infrastructure for bikes, they’re more likely to interact with their surroundings and spend more money. Here’s an example from North Carolina:

Data were gathered through user surveys and bicycle traffic counts to estimate the amount of money that tourists spent during a visit, the total number of tourists, and the proportion of tourists for whom bicycling was an important reason for the visit. The researchers found that, annually, approximately 68,000 tourists visited the area at least partly to cycle. This led to an estimate that $60 million in tourism spending and multiplier effects came to the area in relation to the bikeways, and supported approximately 1,400 jobs.

When confronted with a decision of whether or not to include pedestrian and/or bicycle facilities in transportation infrastructure projects, planning officials should do so, not only because of the environmental, safety, and health benefits but also because these projects can create local jobs.”

Cycling infrastructure is a win-win-win for communities: They can raise local health standards, increase local economic activity and reduce emissions that impact the global environment. This report offers yet more evidence of the immense benefits for communities that support bicycles.

(Below: a summary of project types reviewed and their average economic impact.)

— Tyce Herrman and Stephen Lacey

Joe Romm:  And since oil prices are headed up in the medium- and long-term, biking will just become more and popular:

Below are the earlier comments from the Facebook commenting system:

Leif Erik Knutsen

A while back I read a report that having established bike lanes significantly reduced associated moving traffic violations in the area. Anyone have a link to that information?

June 28 at 10:33am

Jonathan W Smith

Strongly favors more and better cycling opportunities.

June 28 at 10:35am

Tony Abbott

FLow-on effects, reduced crime in the area.

June 28 at 11:25am

Eric Perramond

Yes. And I’d argue, and we need firm stats somewhere, that pedestrian-only streets would be even BETTER for most businesses.

June 28 at 11:29am

Timothy Hughbanks

Now if only construction project workers would stop pushing fine gravel, nails, staples, and glass into the bike lanes I commute in, I’d stop slipping on the gravel and stop getting so many flat tires.

June 28 at 12:59pm

Larry Chamblin

I will be purchasing my first bicycle in 40 years to prepare for Moving Planet on Sept. 24. Check it out at and join us.

June 28 at 1:14pm

Elisheva Chamblin

buy more than one so when we will be there we can go bicking …. this is what we do here on LBI

June 29 at 8:18am

Helen Emerson Slack

Be sure to get a helmet too ;)

June 29 at 6:51pm

Richard Brenne

It’s hard to express how much bike paths have meant to me since 1977 when I bicycled from Canada to Mexico, and since then most of my commutes to work, shopping, errands and recreation have included some of the world’s prettiest bike paths here in Portland and in Boulder, Colorado and Los Angeles.

In each case the bike paths are along magnificent and unique waterfronts that can occasionally flood without damage to any other traffic or infrastructure. They’re also at the heart of much of those cities’ finest culture.

When I grew up in Portland there was a freeway on the downtown side of the Willamette River, but by the time I started riding my bike everywhere (I didn’t bother getting my license until I was 17 and didn’t own a car until I was almost 26) they’d torn out the freeway (better to have never built it there in the first place) and replaced it with Tom McCall Waterfront Park and a wide multi-use path overlooking the river where the Rose Festival carnival and many others like it take place, and where Obama spoke to his largest audience (75,000) up to that point in his campaign and where similar numbers will gather this weekend every day for the Blues Festival that is also a festival of pedestrians, cyclists, kayakers, canoeists and sailors.

It cost 24 million to complete the 2.2 mile Esplanade that circles the Willamette at downtown, crossing the Steel and Hawthorne Bridges, passing the Saturday and Sunday Markets, the carnival and festival areas and linking within a few hundred yards to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the amazing River Place Marina and area of restaurants and shops, our favorite place to take out of town guests including recently Al Bartlett and expert CP commenter Leif Knutsen. On sunny days we push my 92-year-old mother around the entire circuit in a wheelchair, probably her biggest remaining thrill. I don’t have the figures in front of me but over the course of a year I know various parts of the Esplanade get millions of visits by commuters, shoppers, sight-seers and tourists, and with Portland’s finest hotels on one side of the river and the convention center on the other, I often see conventioneers with their badges walking the Esplanade and soaking in the sights.

On a smaller scale the Boulder Creek bike path is just as magnificent and links spectacular and precipitous Boulder Canyon with a series of Boulder’s prettiest creek side parks, City Hall, Boulder High, the University of Colorado and the Boulder Public Library is built over the creek and bike path and on either side. There are also many festivals, fairs, performances, shops, restaurants and stands within just hundreds of yards of the creek. (As a somewhat humorous aside, my wife told me about a Canadian who heard a clickety sound just behind him before a mountain lion leapt and ripped him off his mountain bike, surviving when his companion knocked the lion off him with his own bike. I commuted from a scientist’s house 10 miles up in the mountains without ever seeing anyone as late as 11 pm down the dirt bike path through the heart of mountain lion country imagining that clickety sound – the mountain lion’s claws – though I don’t blame the bike path as much as my wife for telling me that story.)

There are more great climate scientists with access to that bike path than any other in the world, with the National Snow and Ice Data Center and Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research within hundreds of yards of the path on the East Campus of the University, CIRES on the main campus and Roger Pielke Jr’s office overlooking the creek and path, and NOAA’s Earth Science Research Laboratory and the NCAR campus on spurs of the bike path and up against the most spectacular cliffs and mountains so close to any city in America and possibly the world.

The bike path running from under Santa Monica Pier to Marina Del Rey (my commute route to work off and on for six years) is equally amazing – it was like commuting through a three-ring circus on weekends, with buskers juggling chainsaws, roller skaters grooving to music and others slaloming cones, something I took and applied to ski racing as a coach more than anyone I know years later.

These bike paths were also key to my daughter’s development, including as a speed skater. When she was six she and I would in-line skate mostly downhill along Boulder Creek for 10 miles to the East Boulder Rec Center to swim and then take the bus home. I wore a dog leash from my backpack she could hold onto but soon our roles were reversed and five years later even on my bike I couldn’t keep up with her and two other in-line speed skaters (both Olympians) as they sped along the bike path so fast it looked like the car chase scene from the French Connection and we had to move their training out east of town where it was much less crowded (fortunately they never hit anyone, but at least one dog did find itself suddenly surrounded and then it’s assailants were gone so fast the dog’s probably still puzzled).

Lastly I can’t help imagining what could have been and could still be in many places if they’d embrace bike paths. With Gail from Wit’s End and Richard Pauli we visited a third all-time great expert Climate Progress commenter Mike Roddy who was living on Vashon Island southeast of Seattle. The way the island developed most of the coastline is privately owned with increasingly large homes overlooking the water and views of the Olympics or Mount Rainier but with hundreds of “No Trespassing” signs. Not very friendly or appealing, and the public can’t see the water from the vast majority of all roads, sidewalks and towns. Now imagine if instead all the beaches and a hundred feet inland were publicly owned and a bike path ringed the entire island, including small local cafes, bistros, pubs, restaurants and shops nestled around coves and marinas in occasional villages. Every home overlooking the bike path would still have their views, but the tourism and real estate dollars would all be much, much higher than they are. This is the power of bike paths and what every community should be considering and working toward.

June 28 at 3:40pm

A Cole Meyers

This is cool, and I haven’t seen Matti von Kessing post it yet, so…here it is!

June 28 at 5:06pm

Sean Todd Mahoney

Yay for bikes, buses, and all forms of alternative transportation.

June 28 at 6:09pm

Glenn Jaecks

and better neighborhoods, too.

June 29 at 9:53am

Christopher Burati

UMass! Great result of a study done about the economic, environmental, and health benefits of a sound cycling infrastructure. I can only dream that one day our cities will be models of European efficiency (policies geared towards bikes and pedestrians over cars).

June 29 at 1:30pm

Giorgio DiNatale

hmm food for thought.

June 29 at 10:00pm

Mike Vandeman

Bike lanes make no sense. ALL lanes are bike lanes. The problem is not the absence of bike lanes, but the presence or motor vehicles. The focus should be on removing/restricting motor vehicles. Bike PATHS destroy wildlife habitat and make even less sense. We have already lost FAR too much habitat, and mountain biking is destroying a lot more. Bikes should be restricted to existing pavement.

July 1 at 11:42pm

Shane Overton

So mike, how’s it going wearing your pinstriped suit?​m/trial/

July 4 at 1:46am


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