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Bike Walk Life

News and commentary from the world of biking and walking.

First study of bicycling’s economic impact in Georgia reports a $496 million value

Georgia Tech partnered with Georgia Department of Transportation to create the state’s first-ever report of bicycling’s economic impact. It shows that bicycles create close to $500 million in value.

You can read the announcement and the report on GA Tech’s website here.

[Shatakshee Dhongde’s] analysis shows that Georgia’s biking industry has a total annual impact of more than $496 million and employs 4,529 people. Breaking down these numbers reveals that bicycle-related businesses generated $361 million, trail construction created $124 million, and events and organizations accounted for $10 million.

I haven’t read the complete report yet, but it appears conservative at a glance. According to the executive summary:

Based on the existing literature, the report undertakes an economic impact analysis of the following categories:

  1. Bicycle-related businesses.
  2. Bicycle trails.
  3. Bicycling organizations and events.

These categories don’t seem like they can encapsulate all of the economic benefits that bicycling offers. For example, a bike commuter can create economic value without ever visiting a bicycle-related business or attending a bicycling event. The most often-cited economic advantage to bike commuting is in how it saves the commuter money. Bicycles are not just consumer goods, but can be tools that generate value for their riders as well. That is valuable but not measurable in the same way that business revenue is.

The report also contains a stark reality: a mere 0.2% of Georgia’s population rides a bicycle to work. This isn’t completely an accident. Our towns have been deliberately designed to prioritize car transportation at the expense of all other options. This car-oriented design is much more expensive than most alternatives, especially bicycling. In order to fully realize the possible economic benefits of bicycling, we need a radical shift in our culture and our infrastructure.

Pattie Baker has a nice take on the report:

The economic growth opportunity in our state is astronomical if and when we create safe-access-for-all that meets NACTO guidelines. Therefore, no more greenwashing with too-narrow, unprotected paint-on-the-road or disconnected networks with frequent blockages! They are direct barriers to achieving our economic potential, at a time when that is needed more than ever.

Nonetheless, it’s unarguably valuable to have reports like this. I hope that in the future we’ll get to see more bicycling research for Georgia and for other regions where it’s currently lacking.