Article I just published – Bike lanes’ economic benefits go beyond jobs

Today on the online site The Conservation I published an article that  looks at why bike lanes make good economic sense (see below or follow link). This is why the new WA bike network plan is so frustrating as it won’t even finish the principle shared path from Fremantle to Perth by 2021! To have a look at the plan and make comment go here. Otherwise enjoy the article!

Bike lanes’ economic benefits go beyond jobs

You might have heard that bike lanes are a waste of money. The Australian National Audit Office recently investigated the $40 million bike path scheme, announced in 2009 as part of the Federal Government’s stimulus package, and found the scheme “fell significantly short” of hitting its aims.

The Australian newspaper article “More stimulus questions as cycle of waste rolls on” took up the story, describing the auditor’s “major concerns”.

According to the Australian, the Australian National Audit Office said the construction of the bike paths didn’t create as large a number of jobs as the scheme had envisaged.

What this perspective fails to grasp, however, is that the economic benefits of bike paths are not simply limited to jobs created during path construction. Long after the bike path concrete has dried the economic benefits can keep rolling, so long as the bike path is well planned and integrated into a broader cycle network.

The ongoing benefits of bike infrastructure were illustrated in a recent media report which showed that new Sydney cycleways have had a positive effect on property prices. This account indicated that having a bike path right outside your front door increases the value of your house. One owner in the area said that the combination of a garage at the rear and the bike path out the front had added a premium of $100,000 to his house.

The rise in real estate prices from bike lanes is not limited to Australia. Across the other side of the world, a study in Pittsburgh found that bike paths led to increases in business and property selling prices. Realtors in North Carolina reportedly added US$5,000 to the prices of 40 homes adjacent to the Shepherd’s Vineyard Bikeway. Similarly results from the City of Vancouver indicated that 65% of realtors would use the bikeway as a selling feature of a home. The University of Delaware study showed that on average properties within 50m of a bike path could be expected to increase property values by at least US$8,800.

Going beyond house prices, a study done for the City of Sydney shows the city’s planned 200 km cycleway network would deliver $506 million in net economic benefits over 30 years. This is roughly equivalent to a $4 return on every dollar spent, compared with just $2 for motorway projects.

Evidence of the broader economic benefits of bike lanes is not limited to Australia. In Copenhagen the bicycle, with a modal share of 36%, is already the most used form of transport for trips to work or educational institutions. A study commissioned by Copenhagen’s mayor showed that driving cars offers up a $0.20 net loss for each mile driven, due to congestion, health, accidents and environmental impacts. This is in contrast to the bicycle which offers a $0.35 net benefit to the economy per mile ridden.

In a similar manner in Portland, Oregon, increased cycling as result of sustained bike lane investment is generating more than $100 million of economic activity each year and creating 1000 jobs.

The success of raising cycling rates in Copenhagen and Portland illustrates the benefits of strong and sustained investment in a network of bike lanes. As these integrated networks expand and connect the places people want to go to and from, this creates greater use, better network efficiencies and better returns on investment.

Or as Greg Ip puts it: “Just as you are more likely to buy an iPad the more applications it has, you are more likely to switch from car to bicycle the more bicycle lanes (and therefore destinations reachable by bicycle) are available. Doubling the number of bike lanes more than doubles the number of cyclists likely to use them.”

And of course there are the positive long-term economic benefits of bike infrastructure such as the savings to the health system, and the impact a greater percentage of people cycling has on lowering the cost of road infrastructure.

Cycling infrastructure is a low cost urban transport option that has the potential to have greater overall economic, environmental and social benefits, compared to mainstream urban transport investment. But it is also clear that much of the evidence available is anecdotal and somewhat thin.

If cycling is to be a central part of our cities more research and data is needed to better illustrate the correlation between a healthy investment in a city’s cycling infrastructure and a healthy city economy.

Not only does better bike infrastructure help create a more liveable and sustainable cities, but the early evidence is that it improves local economies as well. The next step is for cities to both step up this level of investment and back it up with high quality research along the way

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

6 Responses to Article I just published – Bike lanes’ economic benefits go beyond jobs

  1. Emil says:

    Couldnt agree anymore, lets finsh the Perth to Fremantle bike route asap and get moving on some other routes.

  2. Sean Vincent says:

    As a Freo boy currently living/working in the Danish capital, this article is on the money.

    It’s an absolute pleasure, once you get used to the cold and occasional rain, to move across the densely populated, flat-as-a-pancake city that is Copenhagen. Anywhere within the S-tog (Suburban Rail) ring is more or less 20mins to ride from A to B. Bikeways on major roads are at least the same width as a car lane and raised off the road so as to avoid competition with cars (which are taxed 190% here by the way).

    Being back in Freo in Jan for a holiday to see friends and family, I noticed the changing tune of the locals towards bikes. Many of my young friends who are lucky enough to live in central/surrounding Freo (many are being pushed out by the high rents of houses/units) are jumping back on bikes which is fantastic! It was so good cruising around town on 2 wheels this time around. Along with increasing residential supply and density, and increased government investment in the infrastructure, I really believe Freo is in a great position to maximise on the great work already done by Brad and his team.

    A number of points which I believe need addressing though, some easier than others…
    1) Helmets. Honestly, it’s proven that over 16km (that is on the low side of anyone riding a bike) a helmet won’t do much in a collision. Statistics have also shown that here in Oz, once laws were introduced require helmet use, ridership went from already low levels (2%, or there about’s), to even lower levels. Over here in Denmark, they trailed mandatory helmet wearing, and ridership dropped dramatically, particularly with female riders. It is my view the onouce should be on the rider as to whether or not they choose to wear a helmet. You take a bike to the streets, you know the risks associated. I personally don’t wear a helmet here in CPH, and nor do around 80% of the people I see (guestimate of course). Last time I heard, there were only 3 fatalities on the road here relating to bikes this year, 2 of which were young children being hit by trucks which didn’t see them.

    2) Educating drivers. That’s the big one in Perth. Our city IS the global car city! People in that beautiful city believe it is their birth right to own a car and consume relatively cheap fuel. And fair enough too. When you need to go 40kms to work one way everyday, very basic public transport which only really connects to the city, then you have a very strong case for owning one. However, it’s been proven time and time again that bikes and cars in Perth are almost arch-enemies. I wont say that it would be easy, but by educating drivers more about both their responsibilties with riders, along with educating the riders themselves of theirs, there could be a marked improvement in the harmony of the 2 on roads.

    There is much more I could say on this subject, but I will leave it there. Well done Brad. It’s people like your good self that both educate and inspire others to make the change in improving the great city of Fremantle.


    • freoishome says:

      Envious of Copenhagen riding.

      Educating drivers fully agree with you.

      Helmets I disagree. I did, until having an accident. That was on a shared path, a pedestrian just stepped across my path when I was only 2m away. I went over the handlebars, I remember vividly my head bouncing 3 times on the tarmac path, I was literally like a rag doll. My helmet, saved me. I doubt I would be writing this today without it. It was broken into 4 pieces held together and still on my head by the strapping. They aren’t perfect, but they clearly make a difference, and everyone who works in Emergency Depts, swear by them.

      • fromfreo says:

        Actually ‘freoishome’ helmets are made of foam and designed to compress under a direct force, they are not designed to fracture.

        If your helmet has fractured instead of compressing, it means the helmet has failed under stress, thus not protecting you as it is designed to do so.

        In fact by wearing the helmet you risk converting a direct force injury – ranging from a graze or scape to a fracture, into a rotational force injury – resulting in either an intellectual disability, brain damage or death (Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation [BHRF] 2011. p2).

        It is these types of anecdotal claims that “a helmet saved my life” which reinforce the negative discources that surround the perceived dangers of cycling.

        These discourses; stigmatizations are barriers to cycling becoming the normal mode of transport in Australia and by extension of that, Fremantle.

        We need to shift these discourses, to remove these psychological barriers to cycling and to liberate people from the idea of car reliance, of using half a Liter of petrol to get a Liter of milk.

        In fact the activity of cycling as form of transport can reduce ones risk of mortality by 40% (Anderson, Schnohr, Schroll & Hetn, 2000). This was a study which involved 30000 participants (13375 women & 17265 men), with ages ranging from 20 to 93, and conducted over 15 years. Most of these particpants were helmetless!

        If you are at all interested in evidence based, peer reviewed data relating to this issue, please refer to…

        Anderson, Schnohr, Schroll & Hetn (2000). All-Cause Mortality Associated With Physical
        Activity During Leisure Time, Work, Sports, and Cycling to Work. American Medical Association. Retrieved from

        Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation [BHRF] (2011) Cycle Helmets – An Overview. Retrieved from

      • Sean Vincent says:

        I like the information and links Fromfreo has provided. Very interesting stuff.

        I’m very sorry to hear about your accident freoishome. I think you were missing my point though. I don’t believe it should be the law to wear a helmet. I was simply stating that it should be the responsibility for the rider to wear the helmet. They, after all, are taking the voluntary risk when they take to the road with their bike. I have no doubt there would still remain the same number of people heading to the emergency department helmet or no helmet. That’s my opinion of course.

        Anyways, I am very happy to hear that things are improving so much on the bike front back home. I really look forward to when I can come home and ride as regularly as I do here in KBH. Set the example, and people will follow.


  3. freoishome says:

    I am a bit confused at you linking Bike paths with your dissatisfaction that the Shared paths in the lastest draft are being finished. Do you equate ‘Bike Path’ with a ‘Shared path’ (principled or otherwise)?

    I am very much in favour of the Stirling Shire Bike Strategy, particularly their well explained thinking about bike infrastructure. The key elements being,

    Shared paths, ie, path that both cyclist and pedestrians can use, are effectively pedestrian paths, where cyclist can only use them at very low speeds, aimed at seniors and kids, ie, 10kph. Hence, shared paths would have an insignificant place in a bike strategy or network.

    Cycling should still be a road centred activity. ie, All Streets are Bicycle Streets, implying that Gov’t would do as Commisioner of Police recently said very clearly in The West Australian, do what is needed to change the attitude and behaviour of motorists to make roads safe for all cyclists.

    Specific bike infrastructure would only be required in very specific situations, eg,

    routes with high volumes of fast cyclists – bike paths – the Bike equivalent of a Freeway;

    or high volume/high speed roads, with significant cyclist who would be at risk from such motorists – where type of bike lane within the road reserve would be the typical solution.


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