Building Bike Paths Is Great for the Economy
New Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in January 2009 that, though he supported the infrastructure spending in Obama's stimulus package, he wanted to make sure it would be going to the right kind of infrastructure. "I think there’s a place for infrastructure," he said, "but what kind of infrastructure? Infrastructure to widen highways, to ease congestion for American families? ... But if we’re talking about beautification projects, or we’re talking about bike paths, Americans are not going to look very kindly on this."
Two years later, and to Boehner's surprise, Americans might in fact look extremely kindly upon bike path infrastructure. That's because, in a nation still struggling with unemployment, building bike paths might just be a boon for jobs.
According to a study from last month called Estimating the Employment Impacts of Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Road Infrastructure, building bike paths actually creates twice as many jobs per dollar spent as fixing roads.
This disparity, researchers say, comes from the fact that making bike paths is heavy on labor but light on equipment, whereas repairing roads is just the opposite.
It should go without saying that we need to continue repairing roads in order to make this country work. But let this data serve as reminder to people like Boehner, who scoff at bike paths as being somehow unreasonable, that bike infrastructure isn't just feasible, it's fiscally and environmentally wise.