Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 By Steve Tarlow
On local and state levels, numerous studies indicate that the economic effects of biking versus driving cannot be ignored, reports Elly Blue on Grist. Conservative estimates based upon available data indicate that U.S. workers save themselves $3,000 to $12,000 per year, simply by becoming bike commuters. Every year, the total grows by approximately $1,000.
The money-saving aspect of biking definitely provides incentive, but it has become increasingly difficult to find bike-friendly communities in the U.S. For those who do not live in cities designed with cycling in mind, a bike commute may only be a dream.
In his paper “Estimating the Economic Benefits of Bicycling and Bicycle Facilities: An Interpretive Review and Proposed Methods,” Dr. Kevin Krizek of the University of Minnesota’s Civil Engineering program points out that the way in which cities are built has contributed to the decline in public health and rising cost of health care:
In cities with easy-access bike lanes and biking trails, adopting the bike commute routine can benefit the local economy even more than driving a car; plus, it keeps saves consumers money.
As Blue puts it, the “new bicycle economy” has made a big difference in urban areas with low levels of traffic and adequate bikeway networks. A 2008 study in Portland, Ore., found that the bicycle industry alone contributes $90 million to the local economy annually. Bike tourism plays a big role in such figures, and as former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley reminds, those efforts create jobs.
A 2010 Wisconsin study indicated that bicycle tourism brought a whopping $1.5 billion into the state. Those dollars were produced by state bicycle manufacturing, sales and service industries, reports Wisconsin State Journal. To Rep. Spencer Black (D-Madison) – who commissioned the study – it’s a sign of the times.
According to AAA research, U.S. commuters spend an average of $8,485 per year on cars, and $1,390 of that remains in the local economy as a result of licensing, registration, taxes, repairs, tires and maintenance. That leaves $7,095 that typically leave the area in gasoline, insurance, finance charges and the purchase price of the vehicle computed out over time.
On a larger scale, if an entire city cut down car ownership by 15,000 vehicles, an estimated $127,275,000 would stay local. This is based upon data compiled in Washington, D.C., from 2005 to 2009, writes Blue.