Build bike lanes – save our economy

Bike Lane Road MarkingsAccording to he folks at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Political Economy Research Institute, the construction of on street bike lanes can actually generate more jobs that other infrastructure projects.  At least, those appear to be the findings of a study titled “Estimating the Employment Impacts of Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Road Infrastructure,” conducted in the Baltimore, Maryland area.

The study centered around comparing the number of jobs generated for every $1 million invested in each particular type of project.  The results showed that every million dollars spend on Pedestrian projects produced (both directly and indirectly) about 11.3 new jobs, Bike boulevard projects 11.7 jobs, and on street bike lanes produced the highest number of jobs at 14.4.  By comparison, road resurfacing resulting in new job generation of only 6.8.

We acquired data from the City of Baltimore for a variety of completed infrastructure projects. Included in these are footway repair projects, bike lane projects, and road repair projects. The footway repairs included excavation and concrete removal, repairing and replacing concrete sidewalks, repairing and replacing drainage systems, planting trees, constructing pedestrian ramps, and laying brickwork. The bike lane projects included signing and marking for on-street bike lanes as well as a planned bike boulevard which will include signing and marking as well as curb extensions, bollards, and planters. Road repair projects fell into two categories: the more basic resurfacing jobs which entailed excavation, paving, and pavement marking; and the more elaborate road repair projects which also included more engineering work, drainage and erosion control, signage, and utility relocations.

One of the major influences seemed to be the “labor intensiveness” of the project.  Having witnessed first hand the laying of new on street bike lanes in front of my house, I can understand why it would result in more jobs.  The stencils used to lay out the markings for a bike lane are placed by hand, and the painting machine is also driven by an operator.

Why do the employment impacts differ? Two major sources of variation in project costs cause these dif- ferences: labor intensity and the relationship be- tween engineering and construction expenses. … These two sources explain the differences in our job estimates presented above. Projects such as footway repairs and bike lane signing and painting are labor intensive – they use a high ratio of labor to materials in comparison to projects such as road repairs, which spend a greater proportion of their total project budget on materials.

I’ve archived a copy of the entire published report here.