Four Ways Bikes are Boosting Fayetteville’s Economy
Fayetteville is the fastest growing city in Arkansas and a League of American Bicyclists-designated Bicycle Friendly Community. Fayetteville boasts six locally owned bike shops and an ever-growing network of bike trails and bike lanes. Fayetteville's bike-friendliness attracts visitors and new residents; reduces traffic congestion; keeps us healthy -- and, not least, boosts the economy. Here are four key ways how:
1. Bikes mean jobs. Fayetteville’s six bike shops directly employ more than 60 people, perhaps the most immediate benefit for the economy. Those shops sell bikes and bike gear, and employ mechanics who tune up, repair, and assemble bikes. Bigger retailers such as Academy Sports and Walmart also employ staffers who specialize in bicycles. And other businesses, such as Fayettchill and the soon-to-open Gearhead Outfitters, sell biking apparel and accessories.
Further, city government, non-profit organizations, and the University of Arkansas employ people in bike-dependent positions. The City of Fayetteville brings in federal and private grant money and has a staff of 11 full-time project coordinators and construction workers devoted to trail construction and several other positions with responsibilities such as installing bike racks and organizing bike rides and events. For-profit trail construction companies such as Progressive Trail Design regularly attracts six-figure grants to build bike trails and bike parks, providing jobs for trail designers and equipment operators.
2. Cyclists spend. About a quarter of trail users plan to spend money on their outings, a recent survey found. As more than 20,000 trail users a month fill the busiest parts of the trails, well-positioned businesses such as Arsaga’s at the Depot and Apple Blossom Brewing Co. see tens of thousands of customers passing through each year.
That demand for trail proximity is propelling construction of new businesses and homes along Fayetteville's trails, over three quarters on new building projects in Fayetteville are within walking distance of the trails. In turn, these developments are employing builders, engineers, truck drivers, and so on.
3. Two-wheeled tourism. With some of the best mountain biking trails in the country, including two designated by the International Mountain Bicycling Association as “Epic” trails, Northwest Arkansas has become a destination for mountain bikers. These mountain bikers spend money at bike shops, restaurants, hotels, convenience stores -- you name it. And road racing teams from the annual Joe Martin Stage Race, which now brings in top cycling talent from around the world, will pack hotels during this multi-day event.
4. Going without gas. Fayetteville doesn't produce or refine gasoline, and thus every time we top off our gas tanks we are filling up someone else's bank account. Only about 3 percent of the money we spend at the pump stays in our local economy. As more car trips are replaced with bike trips we can see keep more of our dollars local, reduce wearing of our roads and grow our economy through local spending and investment.
While bicycles alone may not be able lead us to sustained economic prosperity, it seems clear that bikes, with their versatility, energy savings and recreational appeal, will play an important role in our local economy now and into the future.