This is an argument, not for bicycles, but for our communities. We want our communities back. Bicycle infrastructure has a such a dramatic impact on public health and local economies that it should be seen as an investment in our communities. Increases in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure result in healthier citizens, more job opportunities, higher property values, and more tax revenue. These investments also decrease health care expenditures and the carbon footprint of our communities.
Cost of Bike Lanes and Parking
An urban freeway costs about $60 million a mile, on average, to build. According to a recent study by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center Even, the best protected bike lanes only cost $170,000 to $250,000 per mile to build and they require significantly less maintenance. Building bicycle lanes and paths cost only a fraction of what it would cost to build a freeway to handle an equal number of trips. A bicycle rack costs an average of $550, which is insignificant compared to the cost of a parking space. A normal parking space can store 1 car or 20 bicycles.
Decrease Health Care Expenditures
Bicycle infrastructure encourages the use of bicycles, which results in better health. Increased health results in decreased health care expenditures. Therefore, an increase in bicycle infrastructure and healthy lifestyles result in decreased health care expenditures. This is a widely accepted fact. Even health insurance companies such as Humana and Aetna have implemented programs such as Humana Vitality and Go365, which reward active lifestyles with financial incentives. Below are examples of four independent studies, which acknowledge the positive impact of bicycle infrastructure on health care expenditures.
A relatively recent study on Portland Oregon’s recent investments in cycling infrastructure states that “By 2040, investments in the range of $138 to $605 million will result in health care cost savings of $388 to $594 million.”
An Australian study from 2017 determined that an increase in active transport (commuting via walking and cycling) could result in 565 to 12,105 health adjusted life years (HALYs) saved and $6.6 to $141.2 million in health care savings.
Copenhagen is currently working on a super highway system that consists of 26 super highways. This cycling infrastructure alone is expected to save $60 million a year in health costs once its completed.
An Iowa study estimates that recreational bicycling saves the state of Iowa $73.9 million in healthcare costs and another $13,266,020 is saved by those who commute to work.
Boost Local Economies
Those who travel on bicycle or by foot tend to spend more money and they do it locally. The majority of trips are within 3 miles of home, which keeps the money away from gas stations and superstores and in the local community. In tern, local businesses stay alive to employ more workers and generate more revenue for the city.
A 2011 study by Heidi Garrett-Peltier on infrastructure shows that investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates the most jobs per dollar when compared with pedestrian-only and road-only projects.
“Adding facilities such as bicycle racks and bicycle lanes can actually increase economic activity, and also help create a buffer from moving traffic that aides both pedestrian and bicyclist activity.” according to a study from 2012.
An article by Darren Flusche, states that people who walk or bike to a commercial area spend more money per month than those who travel there by car. Portlanders contribute $800 million to the local economy by driving 20% less. Their money is spent locally instead of on gas to drive long distances to malls and other large stores.
Roadways and parking covers more than 50% of some cities. Why does this even matter? It matters because cities are losing a lot of potential income. Parking lots and roads are not generating the tax revenue that a business would. An increase in bicycle infrastructure would mean the city requires fewer parking spaces. Parking lots could then be turned into tax paying businesses that generate revenue for its employees and the city.
“Recreational cyclists’ spending generates $364.8 million in direct and indirect impacts to the State of Iowa.” according to a study in Iowa.Increase Property Values
A recent study on property values found that improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure has a positive influence on real estate values. Homes located near bicycle and pedestrian paths can sustain higher property values and rent than their equal, not located near the path.
A definite number cannot be placed on the value of bicycle infrastructure to our communities. However, it is clear that bicycle infrastructure has the potential to impacts community health and local economies. It should be seen as an investment in the health and well-being of the community and local economy. Discussed here were just a few key benefits resulting from increases in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
You can do your part by click THIS LINK and sending a letter to your national representative urging them to work for more funding for bicycle-friendly initiatives.