Bicycling benefits the economy in a surprising number of ways. Tourism, retail, events, construction, health care costs, congestion costs, employee productivity, and real estate values are all affected by bicycling. Because bicycling touches the economy in so many aspects, it’s rare to see studies quantify a comprehensive list of economic benefits. There are just so many factors to consider! However, we’re starting to see more state-level studies that include a wider variety of economic aspects, like the $1.5-billion-a-year estimate from Wisconsin and this just-released report from Iowa.

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition worked with the University of Northern Iowa to produce the report, titled Economic and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Iowa (view full report). Bikes Belong supported the study through our Research Grant program. The report totaled spending by individual cyclists, bicycle retail sales, economic activity generated by bicycle organizations, and health cost savings in the State of Iowa. The result: $435 million per year in economic activity, plus $82 million in annual health cost savings. Not bad for an annual infrastructure investment by the state of approximately $3 million. Here’s the breakdown of where the benefits come from:

  • $365 million – Recreational cyclists (plus $74 million in reduced health care costs)
  • $52 million – Commuter cyclists (plus $13 million in reduced health care costs) 
  • $18 million – Bicycle retailers 
  • $0.3 million – Bicycle organizations

The report doesn’t explicitly include the economic benefit of the popular bike event RAGBRAI, which in a separate study by University of Northern Iowa is listed at nearly $17 million per year.

With a total annual benefit of more than $522 million dollars versus a $3 million investment, bicycling is a great investment for Iowa. Still, we need more studies like this. That’s one reason why Bikes Belong created our Research Grant program. If your state advocacy group is in need of an economic impact study, please consider partnering with a local university and applying for one of our grants.