Do bike lanes create more jobs than roads?

When the subject of infrastructure improvements as job creators come up, the examples are almost always the same: roads and bridges. No doubt we need improvements there… but a new study from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests that bike lanes may provide a bigger bang for the buck in terms of job creation.

Heidi Garrett-Peltier’s research focused on Baltimore, and dug into five kinds of transportation-related infrastructure: on-street bike lanes, planned bike boulevards, pedestrian projects, road repairs and upgrades, and road resurfacing. Using an input-output model, and data from the city on completed projects, Garret-Peltier determined that on-street bike lane projects are the biggest job creators: 14.4 direct and indirect jobs were created for every $1 million spent. Road projects weren’t even close: repairs and upgrades created 7.4 jobs per million dollars, and resurfacing projects came in last with 6.8 jobs.

The short explanation is labor intensity: bike projects require more spending on workers than road projects (where materials are the biggest cost).

No doubt some will point out that this is a case study focused on one city, and we should be careful about extrapolating from it… and others will caution against prioritizing infrastructure projects based on job creation (especially if those jobs are often temporary). But it’s also good to see that, at least in this case, bicycling infrastructure isn’t just about making a niche happy, but also about creating some economic growth.

Know more about the economics of bicycling infrastructure than I do? Share your thoughts…

via Fast Company


Image credit: ebis50 at Flickr under a Creative Commons license