Study: Bicycling generates $364.8 million for Iowa
Iowa has been building a reputation as a bicycling destination.
As The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa™, RAGBRAI®, begins to celebrate it’s 40th ride across Iowa, cyclists continue to come from every state and many foreign countries.
It is not difficult to determine an increase of quality of life along trails or places where more people bicycle. But from a business aspect, what is the return on the investment? One statewide bicycling group was determined to answer that question.
The Iowa Bicycle Coalition began the Economic and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Iowa study by working with the University of Northern Iowa Sustainable Tourism and Environment Program (STEP). The project was sponsored by a grant from Bikes Belong, Creating Great Places and members of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Research tools were created to survey Iowa bicyclists, bikes shops and bike clubs.
The study cites the economic impact of recreational cyclists’ spending to generate $364.8 million in direct and indirect impacts to the State of Iowa, equivalent to $1 million per day.
“The return on investment was much larger than expected. We know that communities recognize the impact that an event like RAGBRAI has on the local economy. But what about the rest of the year when cyclists aren’t concentrated on one route?” said Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.
In addition to being an economic generator, bicycling can curb health care costs. Iowans need more physical activity. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 29.3 percent of Iowans do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control report 67.2 percent of Iowan adults were overweight or obese.
Bicycling can be part of the solution to Iowa’s health issues. The study estimates that bicycling saves the State of Iowa $73.9 million in healthcare costs for those who cycle recreationally. Another $13,266,020 in health care costs is saved by those who commute to work.
“More opportunities for Iowans to bicycle will help Iowa become the healthiest state,” says Wyatt, referring to the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa number one in health and wellness.
Trails are an investment in which 41 percent of Iowans use for physical fitness and 51 percent of the population is interested in using trails according to the 2006 Iowa Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.