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Report will assess bicycling’s economic impact in Oregon

Posted by on June 27th, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Oregon Bike Summit afternoon sessions-22.jpg

This “wish list” was created at the 2008 Oregon Bike Summit.
(Note the top thing on the list!)
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As Oregon’s bicycle tourism movement has matured over the past 4-5 years, one thing proponents have been clamoring for is a comprehensive study that measures the impact bikes have on our statewide economy. In order to get more political respect for bike tourism and bicycling in general, the thinking goes, advocates must be able to prove what we all know to be true in theory — that Oregon reaps an immense economic boost from bicycles and the people that ride them.

I’m happy to report, that such a study is in full swing. Travel Oregon, who is spearheading the project, has also just released an online survey that will play a key role in the project.

According to Kristin Dahl with Travel Oregon, there are two main components to the study: One of them will look at bicycling’s economic impact from a recreational and tourism perspective; the other will quantify Oregon’s bicycle manufacturing and retail industries. (Note: The study will not assess the economic impact of riding for transportation.)

Here’s more from the project’s scoping document:

The proposed project will provide detailed description of the magnitude of bicycling from a manufacturing and retail sales industry and a recreation travel perspective, documenting the various ways that bicycles and bicycling provide economic benefits to the state and its residents. The proposed research will consider of the primary bicycle and cycling related economic aspects of the Oregon economy.

The tourism part of the study will take into account both Oregon residents and out-of-state visitors and it will focus on sales, employment, earnings and tax receipts. Other aspects of bicycle recreation the study will take into account are all the tours, rides, races, festivals, and other bike-focused events that take place in Oregon. On the retail and manufacturing side, the report will look at all companies and businesses involved in Oregon’s bike industry and will tally up their sales, employment numbers, and earnings.

Work on the study is being done by Dean Runyan & Associates. To make sure the project hits all the right notes, Travel Oregon consulted with their Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership stakeholder group and a host of respected organizations including Portland State University, Adventure Cycling, the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, and others.

The study is estimated to cost about $100,000 and funding is coming primarily from Travel Oregon, with a $10,000 grant from Bikes Belong and an expected $10,000 matching grant from Cycle Oregon.

The survey, which will be held open until the end of the year, asks detailed questions about how bicycling motivated someone’s decision to visit Oregon, where they rode, how much they spent, and so on.

Results of the survey are expected by March 2013, with publication of the entire study shortly thereafter. This report could be a game-changer for bicycling in Oregon and will likely be widely cited and used for years to come. A recent report by the Outdoor Industry Association said that cycling pumps $81 billion into the U.S. economy each year.

Please take the survey and spread word about it to your respective networks. The more respondents the better! For more on how you can take part in this study project, check out this post on the RideOregonRide blog.

Note (I’m adding this after reading a few comments below), the study will not delve into the economic impact of riding for transportation. Here’s a snip from the scope:

“The research will not focus on bicycle maintenance or use by residents in their own communities for recreation, transportation, or other purposes.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • q`Tzal June 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Please include in this study not just bicycle related spending in Oregon but gasoline related spending that DOES NOT occur and thus is spent locally.

    It helps to foster economic stability of cyclists that our day to day budgets are not beholden to wildly unstable petroleum costs.
    Oh and it has vast public health benefits.

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  • Jack June 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Sounds like this won’t cover the impact of people bicycling instead of driving…which I’d imagine has the greatest economic impact of all.

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    • KJ June 27, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      Yeah a much better assessment would be “assessing the impact of bike tourism dollars” from the one survey. And it focuses a lot on organized and roadie ride type stuff. Which is all valuable and important. But I do think a survey or study on what commuters spend locally/don’t spend(on car related commuting) would be um, a huge economic stat that is missing from this.

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      • was carless June 28, 2012 at 1:54 am

        The money I save by bike commuting and keeping my car parked on the street ends up being spent on those roadie rides.

        Ironically, money I save by bike commuting isn’t spent unless I go on a vacation or buy junk! And it has to be spent to go into the economy…

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    • dwainedibbly June 27, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      Agreed. The study is missing a huge part of the economic impact of bicycling in Oregon and will underestimate the total dollar value.

      That said, it sounds like Travel Oregon is staying within their domain, so they can’t be faulted for that. I just hope that when people quote the study they understand that it is only about one part of bicycling on Oregon. Also, this part of cycling’s impact probably benefits rural areas more, where there might be less acceptance. (Or, is my bias showing?)

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  • Matt M June 27, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Just finished the survey and it seemed pretty basic to me and definitely oriented toward the tourism dollar/effect. I was disappointed.

    “The proposed project will provide detailed description of the magnitude of bicycling from a manufacturing and retail sales industry and a recreation travel perspective, documenting the various ways that bicycles and bicycling provide economic benefits to the state and its residents. The proposed research will consider of the primary bicycle and cycling related economic aspects of the Oregon economy.”

    Not quite.

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    • Kristin Dahl June 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Please remember that THIS survey is just one piece of the study. Thanks for taking it!

      Travel Oregon

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  • 9watts June 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    (a) “bicycling’s economic impact from a recreational and tourism perspective”

    (b) “Oregon’s bicycle manufacturing and retail industries.”

    What is strange (if also predictable) about this framing is that is doesn’t recognize or take bicycles seriously as transportation. When are we going to get past this (in my view unhelpful and anachronistic) legacy of bikes as recreation to the exclusion of all the other dimensions?

    The survey writers fail to appreciate that bicycling might be ‘how we get around’ rather than something I engage in for it’s own sake. It matters I think since we’re still struggling to come to terms with the fact that bicycling is transportation, and that spending money to improve or fix infrastructure that doesn’t work for people riding bikes isn’t (primarily) to make things easier for tourists.

    Between manufacturing and selling bikes and gear and tourism lies an unexplored landscape of economic activity, impact, & significance. If this study is looking at that I missed it. The survey was 100% about bike tourism.

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  • 9watts June 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for adding the note, Jonathan:
    “The research will not focus on bicycle maintenance or use by residents in their own communities for recreation, transportation, or other purposes.”

    One wonders why?!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      why? Probably because at some point in a project like this you have to limit the scope and be realistic about what you can afford to do and take on. I’m sure they felt quantifying the recreational/tourism/industry stuff is more than a lot to have on their plate.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 27, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    9watts and others,

    This survey is this survey. It’s not failing to do anything because it’s not trying to do anything other than what it says it will do. Yes, there is economic impact from transportation cycling, but this survey isn’t going to attempt to capture that. Big whoop! That doesn’t mean the folks behind this project are somehow ignorant of that facet of bicycling’s impact.

    There’s always the opportunity for a different survey to focus on the transportation side and then we can do some simple math and add up the combined impacts.

    I am bit surprised at the reactions here. This is one survey, funded by people who really care about this and have put in a lot of time and sweat to make this happen. It won’t solve world hunger or vanquish every demon bicycling has… But it’ll be awesome!

    Please support the project and help spread the survey around.

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    • JRB June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Before getting up in arms about what the study won’t do, folks might want to consider that Travel Oregon’s purpose is to promote tourism, not bicycling, and also that it is not an economic or transportation reserarch institution.

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      • Kristin Dahl June 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

        @JRB – you’re absolutely right. To clarify, we are not conducting the study – we have commissioned Dean Runyan Associates to conduct the study on our behalf. http://www.deanrunyan.com/

        They are “a group of dedicated professionals offers research services and project assistance emphasizing recreation, travel, education and economic development. We help local and regional marketing and economic development agencies, public attractions, destination marketing organizations, resource management agencies and others who are interested in these unique and growing industries.”

        Again, thanks for taking the survey –
        Kristin, Travel Oregon

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    • DoubleB June 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

      “I am bit surprised at the reactions here.”

      No disrespect, because I think you do a good job of championing the cycling community without being absolutist, but if you are surprised by the comments, I question whether you read them.

      There’s a sizable minority on your site who will never blame a cyclist for anything at any time and would like to see cars banned from the city.

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  • daisy June 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I thought the survey was fine — it’s about measuring the economic impact of tourism that involves cycling and not about how we, as residents, ride bikes in our local communities. Ostensibly the results can be used to justify beefing up cycling infrastructure throughout the state, including in Portland.

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  • 9watts June 27, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Bike tourism is great. I enjoy it immensely. And I took this survey.
    But in the political moment in which we find ourselves (Beth Slovic’s potholes, casual or no punishment for running over and killing people riding bicycles, persistent sentiment among a portion of the population that roads are for cars, climate change, etc.) a big study that equates bikes with tourism and bicycling’s economic impact with money spent in relation to tourism and explicitly excludes the more basic bikes-as-transportation dimension misses the mark in my view.

    It is like studying the economic impact of the automobile by surveying RV users and omitting the commuters & others who depend on their cars every day. I think where some of us may have gotten off on the wrong foot is that your title doesn’t say ‘bike tourism’s economic impact’; it says ‘bicycling’s economic impact.’

    Bicycling has moved on, expanded, grown. It is (and I have discovered this in no small measure thanks to your blog) no longer limited to a recreational activity like snow boarding. Framing it that way in my view is unhelpful because it elides the mundane, messier, and I think more urgent aspects of bicycling.

    I don’t think my non-urban friends who think biking is discretionary and we can’t afford to/shouldn’t spend a dime on it in these tough economic times are going to take bicycling more seriously, recognize it as legitimate if we keep framing it this way.

    I understand that the $$ to conduct a study like this are more easily found for something that has to do with tourism, but the asymmetry still bothers me.

    I’ll shut up now.

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    • Kenji June 27, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      I disagree with you. This survey becomes an arrow in our quiver to argue for more facilities and more bike friendly policies. How? When you talk about doubling the population of a town with mountain bikers during a race or how an event had over a $1 million economic impact to a local economy, policy makers take notice. Greg Walden’s ears perk up, Ron Wyden gets excited, city councilors see opportunity. Money matters. Business matters. Jobs matter.

      This is not geared toward bikes as transportation- nor should it be. An overly broad survey is as good as conducting no survey at all.

      To say that tourism and economic development “misses the mark” is myopic at best. We’re very fortunate to have an expansive bicycling community that includes commuters, racers and recreational cyclists (with a lot of overlap). Each is equally important to the bicycling ecosystem as any other and to say one is more important than the other is truly unfortunate because to have a louder voice we need to speak together.

      So in the interest of helping our cause, please help by spreading the word to get people to fill out the survey.

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      • 9watts June 28, 2012 at 7:20 am

        Aha. It turns out that OTREC is doing a study of this subject too:

        “Previous studies have attempted to identify and quantify these relationships for a variety of scales, trip purposes, and economic factors. However, most of these studies focus on recreational cycling, do not take a comprehensive approach, and do not rely on in-depth analysis of the full complement of benefits to the business community that could be attributed to cycling infrastructure and subsequent demand….”

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  • oskarbaanks June 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    uuh, I came over here to see what was goin’ on with this post ’cause the Marine Drive rumble strip post was turning into “Who doesn’t stop at stop signs” Well I can tell that everyone is off to a good start on this topic as well! HEY ! PEOPLE COME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD TO RIDE HERE ! Wanna know how I know that? Because I use to come here twice a year every year FOR 10 YEARS before I lived here! Amazing! I lived 2000 miles away as well, so it was a big deal! I met others often who came from even more far far flung places than the Ozarks, like GERMANY and JAPAN and BRAZIL and NORWAY !
    Take the survey for Gods sake. It is one piece of the pie. jeez.

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    • q`Tzal June 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Now get off my lawn!

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      • oskarbaanks June 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm

        I hope you know I was just joking! peace. 🙂

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        • q`Tzal June 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm

          Fo shizzle whippersnapper.

          Ka Chow! Idiomatic whiplash!

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  • Kristin Dahl June 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I just wanted to say thank you all for all of your passionate responses! My goodness, who knew that something so positive could be so controversial! But, of course, this is Oregon.

    It seems that if we are interested in a bicycle transportation study, this would be a wonderful thing to take up with our Bicycle Transportation Alliance. We would be more than happy to collaborate with them on such a complementary study.

    Please remember as I mentioned above – the survey we’re asking cyclists to take is just one piece of the complete study. The survey will be open through the end of this year and the study results will be released by March 2013.

    All my best to everyone – thanks for helping us understand these pieces of the pie so that we can make this rad state even radder.

    Kristin Dahl
    Travel Oregon

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    • q`Tzal June 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Being an Oregonian I now feel I should generate some controversy about this actually being controversial.

      Nope, it passed; ate too fast:)

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    • Kenji June 27, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      Don’t worry Kristin- it isn’t controversial.

      Keep up the good work.

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      • oskarbaanks June 28, 2012 at 1:55 am

        si seniore?! bikes+oregon=luv when i spell love i say LUV!

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  • aaronf June 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I thought Travel Oregon’s main gig was selling shelf space to hotels and recreational facilities in Oregon Welcome Centers.
    Based on that assumption:

    I wouldn’t expect them to do anything terribly scientific.

    I wouldn’t expect the scope of their survey to extend beyond their own interests.

    I would be interested in their methodology, since they probably have a bias in favor of inflated bicycle tourism numbers, whether it is intentional or not.

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