People Who Ride Bikes Spend Money

Hansi Johnson discovered a study (PDF) done by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison (via the Bicycling Federation of Wisconsin) that attempted to quantify the value of biking on Wisconsin’s economy.

Wisconsin has some beautiful trails and awesome country roads that draw cyclists to the state. And it’s also home to some serious bike companies, including Trek, so it’s no surprise that the state benefits from biking. But check out this comparison:

Combined with previous estimates of the state’s bicycle manufacturing, sales, and services industry, this means bicycling generates more than $1.5 billion a year in total economic impact, according to the report. By comparison, deer hunting in the state generates $926 million, according to the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. And in a 2001 report, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism estimated the impact of snowmobiling to be just under $250 million.

They say that biking generates 13,200 jobs in Wisconsin. Jobs that correlate with healthy lifestyles. Cool stuff.

On a Twin Cities scale, it sure seems like the bike friendliness of Minneapolis brings money into the city. Friends and family routinely come to Minneapolis to ride from our house over to Lake Calhoun on the Midtown Greenway and around parts of the Grand Rounds while dropping cash at stops along the way including Sea Salt, Tin Fish, Freewheel Bike, and the Longfellow Grill.

It would be great to see just a little bit more work done on sections of the Grand Rounds running through North, Northeast, and downtown Minneapolis to make easily navigable and less-interrupted loops for riders. Some serious progress has been made in Northeast along St. Anthony Parkway in recent years, but it’s not quite where it needs to be to have, say, easily understood 10-mile tours. Once that’s in place, the volume of cyclists putting that trail to work will explode.

With a little effort, St. Paul could turn up their trails to a level that would draw cyclists (By cyclists, in this case I’m referring people who enjoy touring a city and stopping for a bite to eat along the way. Tourists.). Wheelock Parkway and Como Ave are close to bike friendly. Shepherd Road is great near downtown but weak up or downstream from there. Bike friendly city maps are nowhere to be found. Heading North-South across St. Paul on a bike remains the city’s weakest link. Phalen Parkway is a step in the right direction. From the capitol, it’s not clear that there are some pretty decent bike trails heading in different directions (Summit, Como, Phalen Parkway, Gateway Trail). Someone should turn this hub and spoke system into friendlier, navigable loops. That will bring the bikers with their wallets.

7 thoughts on “People Who Ride Bikes Spend Money”

  1. Do you mean to tell me that biking generates more money for Wisconsin than hunting and snowmobiling combined? Wow.

    As for St. Paul trails, the National Park Service has a trail guide that covers the trails along the Mississippi (disclaimer: I wrote the print versions released in 2001 and 2006). Probably not the help you’re looking for since it’s just the trails along the river, but it’s something. The Park Service also does a lot of work to encourage connected trails (part of their vision is to be able to bike the entire course of the river through the Twin Cities).

  2. I wonder if those numbers were gathered for MN would the snowmobiles rule the roost due to Polaris and Arctic Cat being located here?

  3. It would be interesting to see the methodology behind the statistics. If a bike rider and a deer hunter stay at a motel while engaging in their respective sports, that would seem to be revenue derived from biking and hunting.

    But what if a bike rider uses a bike as a principal means of transportation. If I bike to the grocery store and pick up a load and haul it home on the Surly Big Dummy, does my $150 grocery bill count as bicycle derived revenue? If I drove a car to the store, would the $150 be revenue derived from driving a car?

    I’m all for seeing how critical bicycling is but I’m not sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you’re comparing revenue associated with what is clearly just a sport (hunting or snowmobiling) and revenue associated with what is a sport but also a means of transportation.

  4. I saw the report and decided not to blog about it, though I support biking hugely as bike commuter and tourist. The study throws in health benefits to inflate the numbers.

    We can do better than that.

  5. If you could ditch your car for a bike, then the dollars you were sending out of state for insurance and car payments would (at least partially) support local businesses instead. That could add up pretty fast.

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