Economic effect of biking vs. driving is astounding, experts say

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 By

A bike commuters' street sign depicting a man flying over the handlebars after hitting a divide in the pavement.

Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Jeff Kubina/Flickr

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.

Bike-friendly communities wanted

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:

“Sprawling land use practices and resulting auto-dependent travel are themes that now have moved front and center into the American consciousness; the link to public health and the declared obesity epidemic remains an important component of this discussion,” writes Krizek.

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.

Discovering the new bicycle economy

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.

“I don’t think folks in Wisconsin appreciate just how important (biking) is in the state’s economy,” said Spencer. “We make a lot more bikes here than we do cars.”

Ditch a car, save a lot for your economy

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.


Estimating the Economic Benefits of Bicycling and Bicycle Facilities


National Trails Training Partnership

Wisconsin State Journal

The Netherlands do bicycling better

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