Study: Bicycling Generates $365 Million in Economic Activity in Iowa

About $1 million per day, or $365 million per year —  that’s how valuable the cycling industry is in Iowa, according to a new study by University of Northern Iowa.

The Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is a major event in Iowa promoting cycling. A new study says those types of investments are paying big returns in this rural state. Photo: ##http://ragbrai.com/galleries/ragbrai-2011-on-saturday/?pid=3606## RAGBRAI##

That’s not all. According to the study, about $74 million in health care costs are saved in Iowa annually thanks to recreational cycling activity. Commuter cyclists prevent another $13 million in avoidable healthcare spending.

In addition, about $21 million in sales tax revenues are generated for Iowa through the cycling industry, the study found.

Wow. Even the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, sponsors of the study, were surprised by just how much money cycling brings to this sparsely populated, rural state.

“The return on investment was much larger than expected,” said Mark Wyatt, executive director of the organization.

Iowa spent about $3 million on trails last year and is planning to spend about $2.5 million this year. But the Iowa Bicycling coalition is pushing for the full $3 million.

It’s needed, according to the study. Researchers found that 66 percent of Iowans would bicycle more if there were better facilities. That could have a big impact on the 67 percent of Iowa’s adults who are overweight or obese.

“We know a lot of Iowans have bicycles, but may not have ridden them in some time,” said Wyatt. “More opportunities for Iowans to bicycle will help Iowa become the healthiest state.”

  • My husband’s family is from Iowa, and I lived there for six years in the late 80’s/early 90’s. RAGBRAI was a huge, popular event even then, especially impressive given there’s often significant heat and humidity when it’s held. In Iowa City I knew a woman in her 40’s who biked year around, snow, heat, you name it. (Again, this was 20 years ago with zero bike infrastructure. She was an inspiration. I was strictly a fair-weather bicyclist when I lived there.) Cedar Rapids now has a great bike trail that stretches for miles along the Cedar River that my husband likes to ride on when he visits.

    That said, most biking (at least in eastern Iowa) is done for recreation, little non-recreation infrastructure exists, and a full two-thirds of adults in Iowa are obese or overweight.

  • Mlleclee

    I biked to work when I lived in Seattle, and the ride helped me through the depressing winters, when I would have probably drank or smoked more if I hadn’t done it (It also helped that didn’t really matter how I looked when I got to my destination). 

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