Investing in bicycle infrastructure generates returns

Attracting cyclists can have economic benefits for a community but it needs to be safe for cyclists.

Communities are often looking for low-cost ways to attract talented workers to their community. Cycling has long been thought of as a means to attract this target audience. Market preference data shows a strong preference for bike-friendly communities among millennials. So this seems to be a logical strategy for talent attraction. Added to this, the benefits of cycling include reduced congestion, less carbon emissions, improved air quality and healthier communities.

But what about the economic impacts of cycling? Most research on the economic impacts of cycling looks at how spending on bicycles and repairs contributes to the local economy. When we look at bicycling as a means of transport as an alternative to driving and not as a recreational activity there had been little information until now. Researchers at Portland State University are looking at the relationship between modes of travel and spending patterns.

One of the initial findings from this study is that while people who arrive by car spend more per trip, cyclists have a greater frequency of visits and spend more per month on average. If communities want to take advantage of these spending patterns, they need to make it easy for cyclists by creating infrastructure to support cycling as a means of transportation.

Bicycle networks should include identifiable and safe connections to commercial areas and other transportation networks, especially transit. The goal is to attract those who want to bike, but have been deterred by perception of unsafe conditions. To support bicycling as a means of transportation infrastructure beyond bike lanes have to be incorporated. Bike parking is key, as it requires a secure place to park a bike at any stop to meet daily needs. A popular means of welcoming cyclists into commercial areas is creation of bike corrals out of parking spaces. This involves turning one space for a car into an opportunity to park 20 bicycles through clustered bike racks. More intense forms of bike parking include bike shelters, which provide all-season weather protection and are appropriate for denser, active locations. In urban core locations with high ridership levels, bike stations with secure storage and showers provide the highest level of support for cyclists. A simple bike rack with two points of contact for securing a bicycle is appropriate in all locations.

For more information on how a community can provide bicycle infrastructure and assistance in implementing it, contact Michigan State University Extension or contact a Land Use Educator for more information on these issues facing communities. 

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