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Economic Impacts of Bicycling - Barry Zalph, Ph.D.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 9:30 pm    Post subject: Economic Impacts of Bicycling - Barry Zalph, Ph.D. Reply with quote

Notes for Testimony to the Kentucky Legislature Interim Joint
Committee on Economic Development and Tourism

November 16, 2006

Barry L. Zalph, Ph.D., P.E., Executive Director, Bicycling for Louisville, Inc.,

Economic Impacts of Bicycling

Health Effects
In 2004,Washington State Department of Health released a study estimating that physical inactivity among the state’s adults resulted in costs of over $5 billion in 2002, or over $1100 per adult per year. The study considered costs related to medical care, workers’ compensation, and lost productivity. The study estimated that these costs would rise to nearly $9 billion, or over $1800 per adult annually, in 2007. A similar study conducted for California using data from 2000 gave per-adult annual costs of $881. Using a conservative figure of $1000 per adult for 2007, Kentucky’s physical inactivity costs total $3.2 billion per year. If 2% of Kentucky’s currently inactive adults began riding bicycle at a moderate pace for 30 minutes per day, Kentucky could realize savings of $31 million per year.

A study of 30,000 women and men in Denmark found that bicycle commuters experienced 40% lower all-cause mortality, even after adjusting for other factors. Clearly, the health benefits of commuting by bicycle far outweighed traffic risks.

Productivity Gains

Case studies of major employers show that bicycle commuting, in common with workplace wellness programs, reduces employee absenteeism, turnover, and health care costs while improving productivity and morale. A recent Canadian study of attitudes toward commuting showed that workers who commuted by bicycle had by far the most positive feelings toward their time spent commuting. Small investments in facilities and programs to foster bicycle commuting can result in long-term, cumulative benefits in terms of productivity and public health.

Student Performance and Behavior

Physical health is strongly correlated to academic persistence and achievement. Students who receive adequate nutrition and physical activity miss fewer days of school, show fewer disciplinary problems, and achieve higher academic test scores. Bicycling can serve as an organized sport, providing the social benefits of other organized athletics, and also serve as individual recreation and transportation for a young person. This versatility gives bicycling the potential to benefit a large fraction of students in a wide range of locations and circumstances.

Low-Cost Transportation

Bicycling provides reliable, low-cost transportation essential for many low-wage workers. Improving bicycle facilities and providing bicycle safety education to low-income populations can greatly assist low-wage workers struggling to find and keep jobs.


Numerous states have experienced economic benefits from bicycle-related tourism. Such tourism may involve special events, such as bicycle races and large bicycle rides, or tours taken by bicycle. The annual BMX (small-wheel stunt bicycle) racing championships take place at E. P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Jefferson County, bringing thousands of spectators and racers and Hundreds of thousands of dollars of local economic impact. Special facilities such as BMX race tracks, velodromes (indoor bicycle race tracks), and mountain bicycling courses are necessary for some types of events. Others, such as stage races (e.g., the Tour de France and the Tour de Georgia) use public roads and common public spaces.Worldwide, bicycle racing is second only to soccer as a spectator sport. Bicycle racing continues to grow in popularity in the US.

Bicycle tours involve non-competitive individual or group rides typically over several days. Bicycle tourists favor small towns and purchase lodging, food, bicycle service, and recreational services at historic and scenic destinations. Bicycle tourism contributes more to the Vermont economy than does the maple syrup industry. Maine Department of Transportation determined that bicycle touring resulted in direct spending in Maine of over $36 million in 1999. Diversity of terrain, wealth of historic resources, moderate climate, rural areas with nice scenery, many charming towns make Kentucky ideal for bicycle touring. To date, the bicycle touring industry remains underdeveloped in Kentucky in spite of several highly successful one-day or weekend rides (the Horsey Hundred, the Old Kentucky Home Tour, the American Lung Association Shakertown Ride, etc.) that have acquainted thousands of out-of-state bicyclists with the beauty of our Commonwealth. People who have a fine experience of Kentucky during a bicycle tour or special event are much more likely to come back for vacations, to recommend Kentucky to others, or to relocate to Kentucky.

Costs of Bicycling

Bicycle Crashes

Bicyclist injuries and fatalities can arise from falls (involving no other vehicle); collisions with fixed objects; collisions with other bicyclists, animals, or pedestrians; or collisions with motor vehicles. Using the crash cost estimates developed by North Carolina Department of Transportation for 2005, modified to account for lower property damages in bicycle crashes, I estimated the comprehensive costs of bicycle crashes in Kentucky. These estimates include adjustments to account for bicycle crashes not reported to police, using Federal Highway Administration research. In Kentucky during 2005, bicycle crashes resulted in costs of approximately $68 million. In Louisville, estimated bicycle crash costs averaged $11 million per year from 2000-2003. Reducing bicycle crashes, and particularly bicycle crash fatalities, by 10% in accordance with the goals of the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bicycling and Walking Study (1991) would save the Commonwealth roughly $6.8 million annually.

Factors Affecting Bicycling in Kentucky

Safety: Actual and Perceived

Bicycle crash rates and severity determine the costs of crashes. The level of safety perceived by the public strongly influences how much bicycling takes place. People ride much less, if at all, when they feel unsafe riding. Improving bicycling facilities, public attitudes and behavior, and laws and law enforcement can all help to increase bicycling and to improve bicycle safety. According to the Kentucky Transportation Center at University of Kentucky, in 2003 Kentucky lost 6 people to bicycle crashes, compared with 18 people lost to ATV crashes. Though every
bicycle fatality is a tragic loss, we should recognize the relative safety of bicycling. We can simultaneously increase bicycling and decrease bicycle crashes. A study showed that bicycle crash rates decrease as bicycling increases.

Potential Legislative Actions to Encourage and Enhance Bicycling


Paving Shoulders on Rural and Suburban Roads

Paved shoulders improve motorist safety, improve bicyclist safety, reduce conflicts between motorists and bicyclists, and reduce road maintenance costs. This is particularly important on rural two-lane roads, for two reasons: 1) these roads are the locations of 62% of fatal motor vehicle crashes in Kentucky, including a large number of run-off-road crashes; and 2) these roads include the scenic, low-traffic roads favored by bicyclists. Kentucky Transportation Center estimated in 2005 that 79 lives could be saved annually in Kentucky by more widespread installation of shoulder rumble strips. To achieve the intended safety benefits of shoulder rumble strips, they must be installed on roads with paved shoulders at least 5 feet wide (to allow at least 4 feet of pavement to the right of the rumble strip). Based on Kentucky Transportation Center’s estimate of reduced traffic fatalities, paving shoulders and properly installing shoulder rumble strips could save Kentuckians approximately $100 million in direct costs and $276 million in comprehensive costs annually. This accounts only for the reduction in fatal crashes and not for reductions in less severe crashes or road maintenance costs. This action to improve traffic safety would also vastly increase the mileage of safe bicycling routes through the addition of paved shoulders, further increasing the benefits to the Commonwealth.

Traffic Laws

With few exceptions, Kentucky law currently does not allow a law enforcement officer to cite drivers for misdemeanor traffic violations not witnessed by the officer. This unfortunately results in a lack of legal consequences for motorists who, breaking traffic laws, cause injury or death to others. Law-abiding bicyclists injured in crashes with motor vehicles often feel that the law is not on their side because of the frequent inability of the responding officer to charge the motorist for the infraction that caused the crash. Enabling law enforcement officers to cite crash-causing traffic law violations on the basis of eyewitness testimony or physical evidence would help to reinforce the responsibility of vehicle operators (including motorists and bicyclists) for the consequences of their actions.

A growing body of scientific studies shows that driver distraction, particularly involving the use of cellular phones, navigation devices, and other devices, causes many traffic crashes. I urge the General Assembly to adopt a measure prohibiting the use of cellular telephones while driving and, if possible, addressing other common causes of driver distraction. Such a measure might involve criminal penalties for causing a traffic crash while engaging in activities that distract the driver from the operation of the vehicle. I support a ban on the use of cellular telephones or headphones by bicyclists on public roads.

I urge the General Assembly to study the benefits and costs of automated enforcement technologies for traffic signals and speed limits. Failure to obey traffic signals and abide by posted speed limits contribute heavily to the incidence and severity of traffic crashes. Automated
enforcement methods can provide a cost-effective and evenhanded way of strengthening enforcement of existing laws. Kentucky law will need clarification or revision to enable some promising automated traffic law enforcement techniques.

Please consider a statewide leash law for dogs. Dogs chasing bicyclists on public roads result in numerous injury crashes each year and strongly discourage bicycling.


Bicycle safety skills programs for children and adults have proven effectiveness at improving bicycle safety and increasing bicyclists’ confidence and willingness to ride in a variety of settings. Please provide adequate matching funds for Federal grant programs available for bicycle safety education. The bicyclists of the Commonwealth, and bicycling visitors to Kentucky, would also benefit greatly from education for Kentucky’s motorists on why and how to respect bicyclists on public roads. Please support funding for programs for safety education of both bicyclists and motorists. Transportation planners, traffic engineers, and law enforcement officers could also benefit from additional professional training in the public benefits of bicycling and the ways in which they can promote bicycling and bicycle safety through their professional practice.


Please provide funding and technical assistance for developing and maintaining bicycling facilities at state and local parks.

Agent, K. R. and J. G. Pigman. “An Analysis of Fatal Traffic Crashes in Kentucky and Recommended Countermeasures,” KTC-05-36/TA19-05-11, Kentucky Transportation Center, 11/2005.
Andersen, S. A. “Analysis of Traffic Collisions Involving Pedestrians and Bicycles 2000 through 2002 In Louisville, Kentucky,” Louisville Metro Health Department, 2004.
Anderson, L.B., Schnohr, P., et al. “All-Cause Mortality AssociatedWith Physical Activity During Leisure Time,Work, Sports, and Cycling to Work,” Archives of Internal Medicine 2000; 160:1621-1628.
Information on automated enforcement of traffic signals: National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running,
Federal Highway Administration. “Injury to Pedestrians and Bicyclists.” FHWA RD-99-078. 1999.
Jacobsen, P. L. “Safety in Numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling.” Injury Prevention 2003 9:205-209.
Louisville Metro Health Department. “Health Status Assessment Report,” Louisville Metro Health Department Office of Policy Planning and Evaluation, 2005.
Maine Department of Transportation. “Bicycle Tourism in Maine: Economic Impacts and Marketing Recommendations: Executive Summary.” Maine Department of Transportation, 2001.
Murphy, B. G. “2005 Standardized Crash Cost Estimates for North Carolina,” North Carolina Department of Transportation, 10/3/2006.
Posted by Dixie Moore, Secretary KRTC
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