While the health benefits of cycling are well-documented, a new study out of Colorado shows that the sport has another, unexpected benefit: It can stimulate a state’s economy.

A recently conducted study by the BBC Research and Consulting firm showed that cycling and walking contributes about $1.6 billion annually to the state, which representatives say indicates that investments in cycling infrastructure and participation rates can help bolster state economies.

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“Without a doubt it’s economically beneficial,” Kevin Williams, the managing director of BBC, told GrindTV. “Cycling is definitely a way that communities across the country can bring in added income.”

cycling economy

Williams believes that beyond its financial impact, biking can help boost the mood of participants. Photo: Courtesy of Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr

Williams’ firm was contacted to perform the study last year after Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper pledged $100 million to bike projects within the state with the goal of making Colorado the best state for cycling in the United States.

“Governor Hickenlooper wanted to know what the characteristics are of cyclists in Colorado,” Williams told GrindTV. “And what the economic impact is there. Now we can say with certainty, ‘This really is beneficial.'”

According to Williams’ study, each year $434 million is spent in Colorado on in-state bicycle events, races and vacations, while another $448 million is spent by out-of-state tourists. Retail sales of bike products contribute another $185 million, and expenditures on day-hikes by state residents accounts for another $497 million.

“I’ve long been a big fan of cycling, so it was interesting to see those numbers,” Williams told GrindTV. “It just reaffirms that cities and states need to look for more ways to make recreational bike commuting accessible to more people.”

cycling economy

Expenditures on in-state cycling events like the Iron Horse race in Durango (above) brought in over $400 million to Colorado’s economy. Photo: Courtesy of Ethan Lofton/Flickr

Williams claims that though the economic benefit in Colorado is fairly high because of the state’s existing mountain biking infrastructure and large tourism draw, the study isn’t just an outlier: In a similar study he conducted for Michigan in 2014, he found that cycling brings in $668 million in economic benefits annually to the Wolverine State.

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“While it might seem like Colorado is special because of our mountains and the amount of tourists who visit here, there are unique opportunities in other states for tourism related to biking,” Williams told GrindTV.

“For instance, if you look back east, there’s the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal which links up with the Great Allegheny Passage trail and allows cyclists to ride from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. on a bike trail for the entire trip,” Williams continued. “That would be impossible to replicate out here in Colorado.”

cycling economy

Williams’ says the most promising aspect of the study was the fact that the economic benefits of cycling would likely grow with additional investment. Courtesy of Anthony Woodman/Flickr

Williams notes that economic impact is completely separate from the health benefits cycling and walking provide, which he says accounts for at least $500 million and prevents roughly 330 traffic-related deaths annually.

And the most promising aspect of the study — according to Williams — was the fact that his firm predicted that, if cycling rates continue to grow, so too will the economic impact. In fact, Williams says that a 30 percent increase in the amount of cyclists and walkers within Colorado will add another $1.1 billion of financial benefits each year.

“It might be a bit of a stretch to try to get a 30 percent increase in the amount of cyclists and walkers on the road immediately anywhere in the U.S.,” Williams told GrindTV. “But if cities and states across the country keep investing in things like bike lanes, bikeshare programs and continue to educate the population on cycling’s benefits, I think it’s attainable.”

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