Does Bicycle Infrastructure Create Jobs? Yes!

A BikeSD reader, Walter, sent in an article [pdf] link that was authored by Heidi Garrett-Peltier at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The study and its results is one of the first of its kind every undertaken. Specifically, the study sought to answer the question – what sort of employment impacts does bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure create? With our current state and national economic woes, this question couldn’t be any more timely or relevant.

The study’s conclusion is both seemingly obvious and yet, painful, as it brings to light the startling realization of how much money and resources that we continue to squander in catering to the auto-centric infrastructure that not only is expensive, but also continues to be a losing investment:

Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million. On average, the 58 projects we studied create about 9 jobs per $1 million within their own states. If we add the spill-over employment that is created in other states through the supply chain, the employment impact rises by an average of 3 additional jobs per $1 million.

The community benefits from bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure through increased economic activity, higher property values, and improved environmental quality. A number of researchers have documented both these economic and non-economic benefits.

The results from this study was very encouraging. California and San Diego, in particular, is in the midst of a long and protracted fiscal slump brought on most recently by the collapse of the housing market. In San Diego County, unemployment is at 9.8% and thus news that infrastructure built for the non-motorized population can have benefits that can reverberate beyond the health and personal finances of the non-motorized populace is very welcome indeed.

The study also evaluated the economic impacts of bicycle infrastructure on tourism,

In some areas, such as the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina, bicycle facilities partly drive tourism. A 2003 economic impact analysis of a bicycle trail system in this area focused on economic benefits such as tourist spending on food, lodging, and entertainment. 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

This too was very relevant to San Diego as tourism is a major industry here. It seems obvious that in order to compete against other major cities in California – many of whom are investing in catering to their non-motorized citizens, San Diego will need to step up its game if the city wants to remain competitive in the coming years