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Bike lanes make sense and dollars

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POSTED: April 1, 2014 10:00 p.m.

I was unable to attend the recent hearing on the Highway 144 widening project. I am pretty excited about the project and glad to see the investment in the infrastructure of Richmond Hill.  
I am particularly excited about the addition of bike lanes to the project.  I greatly enjoy the Harris Trail extension, which also has bike lanes. I have read a few comments regarding the 144 bike lane, which appear to question why we need bike lanes. I decided to do some research on bike-friendly cities to see what type of impact bike lanes could mean for Richmond Hill. Please take a moment to review.
Peopleforbikes.org, a website dedicated to increasing awareness of the benefits of cycling and cycling safety, has significant amounts of studies on economics related to bike-friendly cities. For example, recent studies show that consumers traveling by bike frequent stores more often and spend more money per trip. Receipts increased 47 percent more per week to local businesses than those traveling by car.
In Iowa, bicycling brings $435 million per year in economic activity, plus $82 million in annual health-cost savings. Homeowners are willing to pay a $9,000 premium to live within 1,000 feet of the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
Thinking about off-road? Three bike paths in central Florida bring in $42 million every year to the local economy. We have some neat places to visit in The Hill.
Bicycle tourism brings $66.8 million to the Maine economy. In a survey of recent transplants to Portland, Ore., 62 percent said that the city’s bike-friendliness was a factor in their decisions to move there. The costs of infrastructure are regained.
Bike-friendly cities attract more affluent residents, too. That means more cash for a business. Cyclists tend to spend more money on healthy eating, which is a larger ring at the restaurant register. We buy healthier foods at the grocery store, including more fresh produce, all-natural meats, organics, etc.
In 2009, gross revenue of bicycle sales in Georgia was north of $156 million, according to georgiabikes.org. An entry-level bike, helmet, shoes, cycling shorts, jersey, water bottle, light kit and computer purchased from a local bike shop will set a cyclist back at least $1,000. For many of my friends, multiply that by five, and many of them have more than one bike.
Right now, my friends and I buy our bikes in Savannah, Statesboro, Hilton Head and Jacksonville. We have a fabulous running store in Georgia Game Changers, which is expanding in a struggling economy. Coincidence? Maybe a bike shop will open in The Hill.
If you are a business owner, you will enjoy cyclists coming into your business to buy a refill for their bottle, grab some quick energy from your shelves, or meet at your place of business halfway through our ride to grab a sandwich or a cup of coffee.
Take a look at peopleforbikes.org and see how your business could benefit by added bike lanes. During a recent ride, I was engaged in the discussion of a regular ride forming at a local business like they do every weekend in Savannah. Would you support it?  
If you are a resident, take notice. There has been more than one article in the Bryan County News mentioning where the city and county are struggling to get more revenue to keep up with the population demand on resources. If we don’t have more tax revenue coming in from local businesses, city leaders will have to raise our taxes. County leaders will raise the millage rate again. Leaders don’t want to do this, but the revenue needs to come from somewhere.  
Being a bike-friendly city obviously is your choice to make as a resident and business owner. The city leaders are at least starting to put in some additional bike lanes. I hope everybody thinks bigger about the bike lanes than what I have heard so far.
As for me, I will continue to ride my bike around The Hill in a Zen state of mind, thinking about what really could develop from some extra feet of black top.

Cameron is an avid bicyclist who lives in Richmond Hill.

 

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