More people and employers are choosing to live and work in urban centers and walkable neighborhoods. One reason for this relocation is the variety of transportation options available to get from place to place. When it comes to getting around a walkable neighborhood, the automobile is not the only way to travel. In fact, many people may choose to give up their car when public transportation is readily available, timely, convenient, and reliable. Another great way to travel is by bicycle. Trails and paths are active circuits for biking. People on bicycles also need adequate bike-friendly infrastructure in neighborhoods. These bikeways provide safe routes and good linkages to commercial districts and pleasant trails.
Here are seven reasons communities are funding bicycle infrastructure:
1. Trails, paths and other off-street bikeways add value to nearby housing. A study comparing bikeways on home values in Indianapolis, Indiana, found comparable housing sold on average for 11 percent more the closer it was to the Monon Trail.
2. Good bikeways attract young people. Numerous studies show younger people are increasingly disenchanted with driving and the costs of automobile ownership and leasing. Biking is a less expensive transportation option. People age 16 to 24 have the lowest percentage of driver’s license obtainment since 1963. Bike trips have increased 24 percent among people between 16 and 34.
3. Bike commuters are more productive employees. Findings from around the globe bear this out. A US Department of Health and Human Services study showed workplace physical activity including bicycling can reduce short-term sick leave by 6 to 32 percent, increase productivity by 2 to 52 percent, and reduce employer health care costs by 20 to 55 percent. A Copenhagen study found that bike commuters had 40 percent higher mortality rates than non-bike commuters, while bike commuters had fewer sick days than non-bike commuters.
4. Bike facilities and other bike-oriented improvements increase retail stores’ visibility and sales. Narrowing roads, widening sidewalks, adding bike racks and corrals, increased business 66 percent on San Francisco’s Valencia Street, according to a San Francisco State University study.
5. Bicycling saves money for riders and municipalities. Replacing a car trip with a bike trip saves $2.73 per mile, in a comprehensive cost analysis according to the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute.
6. Bike trips reduce automobile congestion and the need for costly roadway capital projects. The Texas Transportation Institute states that gridlock during average peak periods of travel taxes drivers an extra 40 hours a year in delay, costs the US $78 billion annually in lost productivity, and wastes 2.9 billion gallons of gas every year. The Federal Highway Administration has found that shifting to other modes of transportation by as little as three percent can reduce peak hour congestion by 30 percent. And in cities, where cars and bikes travel at similar speeds, bike lanes accommodate 7 to 12 more people per meter with less road wear than similar car lanes.
7. Biking is a physically healthy way to travel. Depending on the study and the health/bike variables considered, research has found that health cost savings from physical activity, including biking, range up to $1,175 per person a year.
Want to know more about making sprawling places more bikeable? Check out our article on the Los Angeles bike plan.