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Bikenomics: The Economic Impact of Cycling in Greater Victoria

Kate Berniaz - Community Planner
Kate Berniaz – Community Consultant
About a year ago Kate Berniaz started working on a project that’s close to her heart—measuring the economic impact of cycling in Victoria.

Kate worked with the the Capital Regional District (CRD) to examine how cycling affects the local economy, from boosting tourism and helping attract top tech talent to helping retail business flourish, providing jobs and more. The report was released this week and looks at how cycling relates to current local and regional goals and explores how to create even more economic impact through cycling in the future.

“This has been a great and challenging project to work on,” she says. “People see the opportunities that cycling brings to the economy but they also want to see hard numbers and hear what people are saying.”

As part of the project, business and community leaders in technology, tourism and bicycle retail sector were interviewed and surveys were conducted with local shops and ferry services. Best practices from cities that are already doing well when it comes to cycling were examined, as were cities successfully attracting top technology talent. The report presents approaches that the government, business and community can employ to increase the impact cycling has on the economy.

Tourism and Cycling

Over 3 million visitors spend almost a billion dollars when visiting Victoria each year. One of Kate’s first exciting findings was that many tourists are already enjoying Victoria by bike. Five percent of visitors (150,000 people a year) who come to the greater Victoria area cycle while visiting and a robust 24,000 passengers arrive via four ferries each year with their bikes.

Victoria-CDR-BikeNomics

Bikes Boost the Technology Sector

Victoria and the CRD have become quite a hub for the tech industry. In the last few years in particular, the region has seen a real boom in the tech sector and today is home to over 884 tech firms. With so many high tech firms there is a strong demand for highly qualified professionals. The report looked at some of the major attraction factors for talent, and found one strong factor was having flexible commuting options that allow people to walk and bike to work. Candidates were also looking for easy access to outdoor recreation, including mountain biking. Victoria tech companies have tuned into this benefit and are using bike facilities as part of their recruitment strategy.

Bicycle Shops

There are 32 bike stores in Greater Victoria, which is four times more than the per capita national average. These stores have almost 200 employees and $4.5 million in direct economic impact (through wages, rent, and buying local goods and services).

Riding into the Future

One interesting finding of the report was that though the jobs directly related to cycling contribute to economic stimulus, the economic impact of cycling is often more about the indirect impact than the direct jobs that it provides. Building cycling facilities and having more people riding bikes has a long range effect on a city’s, quality of life, sense of place and in attracting people to live, work, visit and shop.

Looking to the future, Kate believes there is a role for each sector to play in terms of building more secure bike facilities, promoting tourism and promoting existing facilities.

“I think there is a lot of opportunity for business, local governments and organizations like Tourism Victoria to really work together and build on each other. Ultimately, bike infrastructure brings communities together and gets people out there, moving and healthy, and this naturally leads to economic stimulus.”

Kate presented her draft findings at the Complete Streets, Complete Communities and Happy Cities workshop (along with Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City) and at the Institute for Transportation Engineers’ Quad Conference. The full report is being released as the Capital Regional District is being recognized by the Planning Institute of BC (PIBC) for its implementation of the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan, which includes this report. We would like to congratulate the CRD for the Gold Award of Recognition for Excellence in Planning Practice – City & Urban Areas by the PIBC.

The full Bikenomics report is here.

Here is a great video produced by Sam and Sawyer Anderson and Jake Roder that helps explains the report.

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