New report reveals bike and pedestrian projects create more jobs than those for cars only

Photo by Flickr user D-SIDE.

Bike lanes and sidewalks don’t just make streets safer and more convenient – they’re a good investment of transportation funds, too. A new report from the Policy Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that public investments in pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure – including sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails – create more jobs per dollar spent.

The report finds that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects create significantly more jobs than infrastructure projects for cars alone. According to the study, bicycle projects create 11.4 jobs for every $1 million invested — 46% more than car-only road projects. Job creation potential decreased as infrastructure dedicated to automobilies increased:

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.

Table 2 of the report (PDF) gives more detail:

Why do bicycle and pedestrian projects create so many more jobs per dollar? The first reason is that the ratio of labor to materials for these projects is generally much greater. Bicycle and pedestrian projects use fewer physical materials, so a greater proportion of the project budget can be spent on wages and salaries.

The second reason is that with bicycle and pedestrian projects, a higher percentage of materials can usually be purchased in-state, creating more jobs locally – which this report specifically examined. Rarely can all the materials for a car-only road projects be purchased in a single state, so while these types of projects might create the same number of jobs nationally, bike/ped projects create more jobs within a given state.

Supporting a regional economy should be among the top aims of any public investment, and today’s economic environment these investments should also create jobs. PERI’s report reinforces other findings that show investing to support multiple types of transportation – cars, bikes, public transit and pedestrians – is the best way to reach both these goals. Improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure can not only reduce congestion, improve air quality, make travel routes safer and help residents stay healthier; as this study shows, better investments in a wide range of transportation choices can put people back to work and support greater economic recovery, too.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts. (2011). UMass Policy Economy Research Institute.

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