With Bike Month just around the corner, cyclists and would-be cyclists are preparing to take to the streets to commute to work and enjoy the benefits of cycling. Many are buying a new bike, tuning up an old one, or reluctantly admitting it’s time for an upgrade.
This is good news, not only for the bike shops that will gain business, but also for our economy as a whole. Having more cyclists on the road improves congestion, reduces our health care costs, and increases local spending, all for a fraction of the cost it takes to build for additional cars.
Bike shops and manufacturers are one of the few industries that have maintained increases during the economic downturn – in fact, bicycle sales were up 10 percent in 2010. Overall, the bicycling industry contributes an estimated $133 billion yearly to the US economy (The Active Outdoor Recreation Economy, 2006).
While a cyclist cannot fit as many goods on his/her bike as they can in a vehicle, studies show that cyclists shop locally and shop often, resulting in higher monthly spending habits than those in cars. Not only that, they are saving money on gas and car payments so have more disposable income to spend locally.
A study from 2010 in Portland showed that local businesses are embracing cyclists as an important customer base, citing increased business from bicyclists and pedestrians due to increased bicycle amenities. Requests for bicycle corrals (on-street parking for bikes directly in front of a business) are in high demand. Here in Pierce County, the Sixth Avenue Business District will see its first bike corral this year in response to growing demand for bicycle parking in front of The Red Hot.
Cyclists are some of the most loyal customers. Cyclists tell other cyclists when a business is bicycle friendly. Many cities promote bicycling-friendly businesses through discounts and promotions, which helps to attract cyclists and cultivate their loyalty.
If your business is reaping the benefits of being bicycle-friendly, look into the Bicycle Friendly Business designation from the American League of Bicyclists. The short application only asks you to talk about the things you’re already doing. Whether you’re a retail business or not, you’ll get great PR with the designation—and that’s good for any business.
Cyclists are healthy.
Bicycling, even a short distance to work, increases a person’s health and reduces obesity. If you own a business, you know having your employees there matters. People who ride bikes are healthier. In a Dutch study published in Preventative Medicine, cyclists that commuted to work even short distances (under 2 miles) used one day less of sick leave annually.
Health care costs are only going up. Making it easy for your employees to stay healthy by cycling to work will lower your health care costs. Not to mention the overall savings this gives to the government, freeing up funding for other important projects and boosting our economy.
Cyclists require less road than a car.
Infrastructure for cycling is cheap. One point six percent of the United States public works budget is spent on infrastructure for cycling and walking while twelve percent of trips are taken by these modes. Not only that, a recent study found out that cycling projects create a total of 11.4 local jobs for each $1 million spent, while road-only projects generate just 7.8 jobs per $1 million (University of Massachusetts, 2011).
Even if you don’t ride a bike, you’ll enjoy the benefits of bicycling infrastructure. Every cyclist on the road is one less car, which means there is less need for expensive road projects that take money from other important government programs. Bicycle and pedestrian improvements cost a fraction of what it takes to widen streets and highways and improve the livability of our cities, attracting new businesses and development.