The first-ever report re: the economic impact of the bicycling industry in the State of Georgia came out a few days ago from Associate Professor Shatakshee Dhongde at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Economics. I’m still digging in to it, but, bottom line, the impact is huge (to the tune of $496 million — see the economic impact reports for 14 other states in Chapter 2 of this report). And it doesn’t even include the fact that #BikesMeanBusiness for local businesses, restaurants, medical offices, etc. as people on bikes patronize locally more, and more often, than others.
Here’s a specific example from my life: I recently chose a new dentist (see my rubber-hits-the-road Tour des Dentistes research as a PeopleForBikes Ambassador) so that I could ride my bike there, which I did yesterday — look at the pretty waiting room in the photo at the top of this post! Fun fact; I ran into my neighbor riding his bike home from his local dentist a week or so ago. (Note: I run errands and patronize local businesses via bike almost every single day. I average 5-15 miles daily and very typically see zero other bike riders on my suburb-city routes. This is dramatically better in the City of Atlanta, where I used my bike, often combined with mass transit, for transportation and to conduct research as a writer 5 days a week prior to the pandemic and now about once a week.)
What’s more, women (50% of our adult population — 51% in my Metro Atlanta suburb-city — who make or influence 80% of all consumer purchase decisions) are more likely (according to studies) to make the more environmentally-friendly choice when given the safe and convenient options to do so. It’s also nice to run into people we know, meet new folks from all walks of life, and build stronger community resiliency — so, yep, women-on-bikes hits all aspects of triple-bottom-line sustainability.
We are also, however, more likely to be passed too closely and harassed more often while Traveling at the Speed of Bike. These increased threats combine with the fact that we are often primary caregivers of both children and elders. And that means today ain’t a good day to die and we are therefore less likely to be willing to put our lives in unnecessary risk*.
Oh, and women “trip-chain” more than men, which means we make multiple stops, which means safe bike parking** and connected bike networks matter and the lack of them is a disincentive to replacing the local car trip (something like 70% of which are under three miles) with a bike. (And have we mentioned hilly and hot yet? Still-unaffordable-for-many ebikes of all varieties — which flatten hills; reduce the impact of heat; enable access for those with disabilities and varying levels of fitness; and provide achievable ways to carry heavy loads including children — need to be more supported via incentives, financing, and equitable bikeshare systems.)
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.
Let’s talk sidewalks a minute. My suburb-city is the only one in the State of Georgia that decriminalized sidewalk-riding for people of all ages (on the very day I survived a hit-and-run, by the way). I didn’t advocate for this, and I go into its pros and cons in 65 Miles of Multiuse Path Literally Overnight. The big economic thing I want to stress, however, is that I’ve compared bike trips via road and sidewalk and there is a 40% time-tax required to take the sidewalk. For gig and hourly workers, this translates into a negative economic impact via lost potential earnings for many people that already suffer from an inequitable wage gap. Bottom line: Unacceptable as anything but a short–term temporary solution to a city’s failure to provide safe and equitable access.
Re: the e-cargo-delivery boom — I have requested an interview with the person in charge of the global e-cargo-delivery project at the headquarters of UPS (where I worked for two years — and which is a mere, but dangerous, five miles from my home via bike). Stay tuned!
*Reminder: NO ONE should be encouraged to assume unreasonable risk on known dangerous-by-design roads with subpar infrastructure that doesn’t meet NACTO guidelines. NO amount of education, expertise, or enforcement makes up for false and/or misleading “bike friendliness.” Also, inadequate bike infrastructure makes your community ineligible to participate in the e-cargo-delivery boom happening globally right now.
**In case you are wondering what the economic impact of ONE bike rack is, I ran the numbers a few years ago and here ya’ go:
$121, Week After Week, Adds Up
One hundred twenty one dollars worth of groceries. That’s how much fit in my bike panniers on this one visit to this grocery store. Add to that the almost-daily bike rides to this same store to pick up just an item or two at a time. In two weeks, I’d guess I alone cover the cost of that bike rack.
The supermarket directly across the street from this one does not have a bike rack. Do you know how many times I’ve been there in the two and a half years since this store opened? I could count it on one hand. The economic impact of this store opening, with a bike rack, on that other store is a loss so far of almost $10,000, just from one customer. (Sorry, Kroger, but I have asked over and over again, now, haven’t I?)
My city does not require bike parking. I can count on two hands how many places actually have bike racks. Bike riders shop locally more, and more often, than others. Bike racks make business sense. At least they did to this store.