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Does Cycling Contribute to Commerce?

Updated: Jan 9

December 14, 2023—I recently read an article from BikePortland regarding a presentation given to the Columbia River Gorge Commission about the new Hood River-White Salmon Bridge that will replace the aging bridge that currently spans the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon, to White Salmon, Washington. While the article focused mainly on one commission member and his serious concerns about the lack of adequate width of the bike/pedestrian lane on the bridge, I want to focus my thoughts on a comment made during the public comments period that reflects a misconception many in the public have regarding cycling.

A woman made the comment that the bridge shouldn’t even have a bike/pedestrian lane on it. Her reasoning is that cyclists and walkers don’t contribute to commerce and that commerce should be the main (and only) purpose of the bridge. Let me put that misconception to rest right now. Outdoor recreationists, whether they be cyclists, hikers, paddlers, skiers, kiteboarders, and others who recreate in the Gorge, do contribute to commerce.

By the definition of commerce, bicycle riders do contribute to commerce. Commerce is the activity of buying and selling of commodities, especially on a large scale. Towns with bike trails and other cycling infrastructure see a large economic boost. According to a report published by the League of American Bicyclists, recreational cyclists spend $46.9 billion on lodging, dining, transportation, gifts, and other activities associated with tourism. Tourism is one form of commerce. The spill-over effects from all cycling activities, what economists who deal in outdoor recreation economics term “indirect economic benefits,” has been estimated to pump $133 billion into the economy, supporting 1.1 million jobs. These jobs are service industry jobs in the food service sector, hotel industry, gas stations, and in local retail stores like gift shops and grocery stores. Furthermore, cycling contributes $1.4 billion dollars in tax revenue to the states.

Indirectly related to commerce is the fact that commuting by bicycle helps reduce congestion, which greatly impacts the flow of goods along the road system. Fewer vehicles on roads improves the overall movement of goods. Just take a drive along Interstate 5 in Los Angeles, Portland, or Seattle to see how fast goods move through those cities and you’ll see how bad congestion impacts the movement of goods. According to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, cycling is six times cheaper than driving. Getting more people out of vehicles and onto bikes would not only save vehicle owners thousands of dollars each year, but it would also free up the roads for trucks carrying goods and reduce the damage to roads, which also hampers the smooth flow of commercial goods due to poor road surfaces. Poor road surfaces are a contributing cause of tire blowouts on trucks.

You can find more information about the presentation and the proposed bike lane on the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge by reading the BikePortland post.


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