Minneapolis, Star Tribune

Cycling creates jobs, cuts health spending

“For many Minnesotans cycling is nothing more than a Sunday frolic, but a new report finds that the state’s bike industry produces $780 million in annual economic activity, 5,519 jobs and millions of dollars in health care savings because of reduced obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”

Source: Cycling in Minn. creates jobs, cuts health spending, state finds – StarTribune.com

“And get this: Fully 13.6 percent of Twin Cities residents commute by bike, at least once in a while.

Those are the results of the first major investigation into the health and economic effects of the state’s bicycling industry, commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to help measure the financial return on taxpayers’ investment in biking infrastructure. “This will help us understand how biking contributes to the health and vitality of communities,” said Sara Dunlap, a MnDOT planner.

Despite its cold winters, Minnesota — and the Twin Cities in particular — has long been recognized as one of the country’s biking-est places. Minneapolis leads the nation in the concentration of bike lanes and paths (5.8 per square mile), the number of regular commuters (4 percent, according to the U.S. census), and has the second-lowest biking fatality rate among the top 50 largest cities.

But this is the first time the state has totaled the economic value of biking in terms of industry, tourism, recreation and health. The study was designed to guide state leaders in the always-contentious process of setting budget priorities, even as some legislators are questioning the value of bike lanes. One bill that never made it through a committee hearing would have required bicyclists to obtain permits to ride in bike lanes.

“It will help advocates make the case that investments in bicycling far outweigh the costs,” said Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. And the study didn’t include estimates of how much individuals save in gasoline and car maintenance, or the environmental benefits from lower air pollution, he said.

It was compiled by researchers at the University of Minnesota through surveys of bikers and businesses, crunching public health data and computer modeling.”