Streets paved with gold? Nah, just cycle lanes

A recent study (Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study Of Employment Impacts) by The University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute tells us that bicycle infrastructure creates jobs. Of course just about any infrastructure or public works project will create some jobs, even if we hire people to dig holes and hire other people to fill those holes: There are better ways to get job growth from infrastructure projects.

Cycle Lanes = Jobs
Cycle Lanes = Jobs

What this study looks at is the jobs that are created by various modes of transport infrastructure. From the report’s executive summary:

For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million.

That’s over 46% more job creation per dollar of bicycle infrastructure than road-only projects. Certainly that return on investment (ROI) demands better than 0.7% of the transport budget for the next 10 years allocated to walking and cycling.

This information should hopefully help local planners here in Wellington get more funding for bicycle projects (hint: first we have to ask). This should also work for other cities, and I’m especially hopeful that Christchurch will be able to put this to good use as they rebuild. If anyone reading this has connections to those decision makers, feel free to pass along the info.

Of course this report is based on several US states, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that the numbers would translate reasonably well into other countries with similar car-centric transportation systems, such as New Zealand. If anything, I would think that the benefits of cycle lanes, compared to motor-vehicle capacity, would be greater in a country that imports essentially 100% of its motor vehicles, parts and fuel: According to a report by TRAFINZ, “[New Zealand’s] three highest categories of import by dollar value are new vehicles, used vehicles and the fuel to power them.In other words, when we increase motor-vehicle capacity: The more we spend, the more we spend. When we increase cycle (and walking & public transport) infrastructure: The we spend, the more we earn.

Even if we ignore environmental sustainability, health benefits, and all of the other warm and fuzzy reasons why we like to see more cycle lanes, cycle lanes create jobs! And provide a much better return on investment than roads built for cars.

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