Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011


Executive Summary

Pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure such as side-walks, bike lanes, and trails, can all be used for transportation, recreation, and fitness. These types of infrastructure have been shown to create many benefits for their users as well as the rest of the community. Some of these benefits are economic, such as increased revenues and jobs for local businesses, and some are non-economic benefits such as reduced congestion, better air quality, safer travel routes, and improved health outcomes. While other studies have examined the economic and non-economic impacts of the use of walking and cycling infrastructure, few have analyzed the employment that results from the design and construction of these projects. In this study we estimate the employment impacts of building and refurbishing transportation infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. We analyze various transportation projects and use state-specific data to estimate the number of jobs created within each state where the project is located.

The data for this study were gathered from departments of transportation and public works departments from 11 cities in the United States. Using detailed cost estimates on a variety of projects, we use an input-output model to study the direct, indirect, and induced employment that is created through the design, construction, and materials procurement of bicycle, pedestrian, and road infrastructure. We evaluate 58 separate projects and present the results by project, by city, and by category. Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located.

Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million. On average, the 58 projects we studied create about 9 jobs per $1 million within their own states. If we add the spill-over employment that is created in other states through the supply chain, the employment impact rises by an average of 3 additional jobs per $1 million.


This study was undertaken in order to understand the employment impacts of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. In January 2009 the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) published a study analyzing the needs and job creation effects of public investments in a wide variety of infrastructure projects, including energy, water, and transportation. However, the transportation infrastructure we considered in that study did not specifically include cycling or walking infrastructure that could be used for commuting as well as recreational purposes. In searching through the literature, we discovered that there were no studies which specifically addressed the job creation that results from building infrastructure such as bike lanes, multi-use trails, and pedestrian facilities. This study, the first of its kind, was developed to fill this need.

In this report, we estimate the jobs that are created in the construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The manufacturing of the materials and equipment, the design of the facilities, and the construction and installation of each transportation project can generate a significant number of jobs in a variety of industries and occupations. Other economic impact studies have focused on the use of trails and other walking and cycling infrastructure, and the dollars that flow into a community as a result of this use. While these economic benefits can be significant, they only represent a part of the picture. A community will also experience significant employment benefits resulting from the design and construction of trails, sidewalks, bike lanes, and related projects.

Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure offers many services both to the users of that infrastructure as well as the community at large. Cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and others who use trails, bike lanes, and walkways to commute to work and school or for recreation and exercise, experience health benefits, reduced congestion, reduced costs for vehicle maintenance and operations, and increased travel safety. The community benefits from bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure through increased economic activity, higher property values, and improved environmental quality. A number of researchers have documented both these economic and non-economic benefits.

Research conducted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and various state Departments of Transportation generally draws on user surveys to gauge the types of users and the revenues attributable to trail use. For example, in their “Economic Benefits of Trails and Greenways,” the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy finds that economic benefits include tourism and recreation-related spending (which is a boon to businesses and increases local tax revenues), and a rise in real estate values. Other benefits include higher quality of life, environmental benefits such as buffer zones to protect water sources from pollution run-off, and mitigation of flood damage. A 2008 user survey of a multi-use trail in Pennsylvania showed that over 80 percent of users purchased “hard goods” such as bikes and cycling equipment in relation to their use of the trail, and some also purchase “soft goods” such as drinks and snacks at nearby establishments.

In some areas, such as the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina, bicycle facilities partly drive tourism. A 2003 economic impact analysis of a bicycle trail system in this area focused on economic benefits such as tourist spending on food, lodging, and entertainment. Data were gathered through user surveys and bicycle traffic counts to estimate the amount of money that tourists spent during a visit, the total number of tourists, and the proportion of tourists for whom bicycling was an important reason for the visit. The researchers found that, annually, approximately 68,000 tourists visited the area at least partly to cycle. This led to an estimate that $60 million in tourism spending and multiplier effects came to the area


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About the Political Economy Research Institute
“The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) promotes human and ecological well-being through our original research. Our approach is to translate what we learn into workable policy proposals that are capable of improving life on our planet today and in the future. In the words of the late Professor Robert Heilbroner, we at PERI “strive to make a workable science out of morality.”

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