7 Benefits of Bike Friendly Communities

Overhead view of a large group of cyclists. Learn more about the benefits of bike friendly communities.

7 Benefits of Bike Friendly Communities

May 17, 2017 | By The Railyards

Cities and communities across the US are investing big money in bike infrastructure improvements. It’s a plan that is paying off. When communities focus on being bike-friendly, the benefits are clear. From increased property values and retail activity to safer streets and healthier citizens, here are some of the reasons why cities are banking on biking for a brighter future.

Biking Boosts Economies

Bicycling is big business. Bicycling contributes $133 billion annually to the US economy, according to a report by the Outdoor Industry foundation. Studies show that the bicycle industry and bicycle tourism (and the health benefits from bicycling) creates jobs, economic activity, and cost savings.

Portland, OR, which has been designated a Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community, saw $90 million in bicycle-related activity in one year alone. Nearly 60% of that activity came from retail, rental, and repair. The remainder of the economic activity came from bicycle events, manufacturing and distribution, and professional services such as bike messengering and more.

Bikeways Improve Property Values

Bike friendly communities can be more valuable. A 2006 study in Minneapolis found that the median home values rose $510 for every quarter-mile they were located closer to an off-street bikeway. Bike trails and facilities have a positive, statistically significant impact on home values.

Bike-friendly Improvements Increase Retail Activity

Bike friendly communities also benefit non-bike related retail stores. According to a San Francisco State University study, 66 percent of shops on San Francisco's Valencia Street reported business improved after the city reduced the width for cars, and widened sidewalk and added bike infrastructure.

In New York, the DOT built a protected bike lane and pedestrian safety islands on Columbus Avenue, a busy shopping boulevard on the city's affluent Upper West Side. Tax revenue was up 20% in the second year the bike lanes were implemented. Another New York neighborhood also benefitted from investments in bike infrastructure. After making streets safer in a congested and chaotic working-class neighborhood in the South Bronx, retail sales went up 50%.

Bike-friendly Communities Help Companies Attract Top Talent

Bike friendly communities are important to millennial job seekers and functional bike infrastructures help companies attract talent. “States and cities are competing for the most mobile generation ever and so the job creators and the innovators are really pushing for these amenities,” said Bill Nesper, who heads the Bicycle Friendly America program at the League of American Bicyclists.

More than any other generation, millennials are multimodal. Communities that attract millennials offer a multitude of transportation choices. According to the Millennials and Mobility report by the American Public Transportation Association, millennials prefer biking and taking the bus over subways, walking, or driving a car. In the next decade, millennials will make up 50-70% of the workforce. Companies that are looking to the future know that addressing the needs of this particular generation is a way stay attractive to the new, top talent for years to come.

Bike Commuters Are Healthier

Biking to work helps commuters reach the recommended 60 - 90 minutes of physical activity per day to ward off chronic disease and prevent unhealthy weight gain. According to a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "workplace physical activity programs can reduce short-term sick leave by 6 - 32%, reduce health care costs by 20 - 55%, and increase productivity by 2 - 52%." A Copenhagen study of 30,604 people showed that bike commuters had 40% lower risk of dying over the course of the study period than those who didn't. Bike commuters also averaged a day fewer absences due to illness each year than non-bike commuters.

Bicycling Reduces Health Costs

Healthy bike commuters means an increase in health savings costs. Thirty minutes of daily cycling can save $544 per person in annual medical costs. A study that analyzed commuter patterns in the Great Lakes region found that if people would complete half of their commutes of five miles or less by bicycle, the region could save $7.3 billion in health care costs and 1,100 lives would be saved annually.

Bike-Friendly Roads are Safer

When communities invest in bicycle infrastructure, it makes the streets safer for everyone. High bicycling cities generally show a much lower risk of fatal crashes for all road users. Davis, CA was the first city to gain “platinum” status by the League of American Bicyclists and is often referred to as the “bicycle capital of America.” From 1996 - 2007, Davis only had nine fatal road crashes. Despite having the largest percentage of bike commuters in the United States, none of these accidents involved cyclists.

Portland, OR, another platinum bicycling city, saw a nearly 50% decrease in road fatalities as it increased its bicycle mode share from 1.2% in 1990 to 5.8% in 2000. Bike friendly communities are safer for all road users, no matter what type of transportation is being used.

When communities invest in bike infrastructure, everyone benefits. Overall, bike commuters are healthier and bike-friendly streets are safer for everyone on the road. Bike friendly communities reap economic benefits including more retail activity and increased home values. The evidence is clear: biking brings big benefits to communities who embrace it.

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