Portland and Oregon’s bike economy has gotten a lot of play in the media and in advocacy circles, but the size of our bike economy is peanuts compared to Wisconsin’s. According to a study released today by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, bike-related tourism and industry pumps $1.5 billion to that state’s economy each year.
“Recreational bicycling” had the largest impact, accounting for $924 million. Of that amount, the study says, $533 million is direct spending and $391 million is due to “indirect and induced effects, such as increased purchases of supplies and labor by restaurants and hotels serving cyclists.”
But wait, there’s more:
- Bicycling creates 13,000 Wisconsin jobs
- Bicycling has a larger economic impact than deer hunting ($926 million) and snowmobiling ($250 million) combined.
- 49% of Wisconsinites participate in recreational biking
- A 20% increase in biking could increase economic activity by $107 million and create 1500 more jobs
The study went way beyond just crunching numbers. It also looked at bicycling’s impact on health care costs and it offered policy recommendations to increase bicycling.
“The report’s authors also calculated the potential economic value of increased bicycling as a replacement for short automobile trips. They estimated that improvements in air quality and the health of Wisconsin adults could yield annual savings valued at more than $400 million.”
These are impressive numbers and this report will be a powerful tool for advocates and pro-bike politicians in Wisconsin.
Here in Oregon, we’ve got all the pieces in place to have a bike economy that rivals Wisconsin’s. We may not have major companies like Trek, Saris, and Planet Bike, but we’ve got plenty of small, up-and-coming, and medium-sized bike businesses that are poised for growth. We also have strong support for bicycle tourism — evidenced most recently by the Ride Oregon website created through a partnership with Travel Oregon.
A report issued in September 2008 by Alta Planning valued Portland’s bike-related economy at $90 million and accounting for 1,150 jobs.
What Oregon needs is a study to capture all the bike-related economic activity across our entire state. In Portland, Eugene, and other bike hotbeds, we need more attention from elected officials to help nurture and subsidize bicycle industry innovation and development.
Download, Valuing Bicycling’s Economic and Health Impacts in Wisconsin, at the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin’s website.