Bikenomics: Grist.org says the bike can save us

These kids are in the know...

Over the last few weeks, the always witty environmental commentators at Grist.org have posted Bikenomics: a series about how cycling will save the economy… if we let it. Included in the five-part series are some pretty thorough discussions of the same old bike benefits we drone on and on about over here, with some nifty resources attached to make it a handy reference for all of us who want to occasionally persuade with the written word instead of relying on our pleasure while riding.

Thoroughly researched and well-written by Elly Blue, Portland bike-activist and managing editor of BikePortland.org, the series to date covers the bike’s role in 1) aiding economic recovery; 2) improving revenue generation in our local communities; 3) mitigating the effects of a health care crisis; and 5) reducing foolish energy dependency on unstable regions.  For example, did you know that the cost of building one mile of urban freeway in the U.S. can range from USD$8 million to $1 billion?  In contrast, the cost of a mile of bike land will range from USD$5,000 to $60,000.  I bet the businesses of Wellington’s CBD and Courtenay Place would be keen to read a recent study comparing bike and car parking in Melbourne.  Turns out that cyclists may spend a little less when they shop, but because there can be more bikes parked in a single car space, more revenue can be generated by allocating space for bike parking. Imagine that. And it looks good too. It tells the community that the store is supportive of its pedaling members.

Perhaps the best part of the series is its contextual reminder of the shifts that are taking place among urban communities. It’s this context, I think, that leadership is foolish to ignore.  Petrol prices have soared, food prices are high, medical costs are breaking the bank, home energy costs are on the rise and people are working harder than ever to make ends meet.  Small businesses are feeling the pinch as consumers grasp their cash more tightly.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that something is going to have to change.  Nor does it take an anthropologist to observe that people are looking for alternatives to make their lives a little more sustainable.

If you don’t have a bike sitting in the garage, then consider this: for about the cost of five full tanks of gas, you can purchase a pretty sweet ride that will earn its keep and save you money within only a few months of ditching your car for a couple days per week.  For even less, you can get a used ride off TradeMe or your neighbor’s garage sale and you can tinker with it until it suits you.  Once you hop on, the rides you take are improve your health, keep medical costs down and enhance everyone’s overall enjoyment of life itself.  That’s big, right? I mean, life is meant to be enjoyed, so, you know… it’s important to prioritize that kind of biz-natch.

When we’re on our bikes, we open up pathways to others.  They see the enjoyment and they see the possibility.  And for those of you who like financial incentive over quality of life, well, bike business is nothing to sneeze at.  The bike industry is big and international but may best be represented in the small businesses that dot our local communities.  And then there’s bike tourism, bike events and pie-delivery t0 set our money in motion.  If you’re sneezing, then you’re just allergic to possibility.

While the articles are pretty U.S.-centric, they offer both hope and cautionary tales that those of us in other parts should be quick to snatch for our own use.  Take a look and let us know what you think.

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