Bicycle riders spend over $3.1 billion in the Washington state economy and outdoor recreation contributes significantly to supporting rural economies statewide.
A new study, Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State, commissioned by the recently completed Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation that was co-chaired by Washington Bikes Executive Director Barb Chamberlain, illustrates the significant economic impact of bicycling in Washington state.
Among the highlights:
- Bicycle riding is #3 in recreational activities by total expenditures in Washington state with over $3.1 billion spent statewide.
- Bicycle riding comes in as the fourth biggest recreational activity by measuring the total number of participant days occurring in Washington state.
- As compared to many activities where equipment purchases provide the significant economic impact to their activity, bicycle riders’ trip-related expenditures account for a whopping 96% of the economic impact of bicycling. This means that bicyclists like to contribute to local economies via shopping, lodgings, and eating. It underscores that bicyclists are “wallets on wheels.”
- In total, Washington state residents and visitors spend $21.6 billion per year on outdoor recreation trips and equipment, which translates to nearly 200,000 jobs in the state.
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Not only does the economic analysis by Earth Economics of Tacoma show the benefits of bicycle riding, but it also underscores an important economic development dynamic for outdoor recreation in Washington state:
“These results show that outdoor recreation markets play an important role bridging urban and rural communities. The recreation market is unquestionably one of the largest markets in the state for moving income from urban to rural areas and building sustainable jobs in rural Washington State”
“It’s rewarding to see what we at Washington Bikes have long known,” says Executive Director Barb Chamberlain, “bicycling means business and can be a critical economic driver for small towns. Washington state is blessed with amazing places to ride your bike. With cost-effective improvements, small towns can capitalize on creating inviting places for bicyclists to stay, eat, play, and spend money.”
Study Underscores Need for Washington Bikes’ 2015 Legislative Agenda
As the Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State conclusions show, bicycle travel and tourism is big business in Washington state.
Yet despite the impressive bicycle travel and tourism top-line numbers that this new economic analysis highlights, there is little detail beyond the 30,000 foot level. Especially lacking are details about attitudes, strategies and tools to attract more bicycle riding, or analysis of regions where bicycle riding could be enhanced. Interest in better information has been growing among tourism professionals, chambers, and businesses that seek out economic development opportunities via tourism and outdoor recreation.
The Earth Economics study shows the significant impact and opportunity of bicycle riding but still leaves a gap in knowledge about where or how bicycle riding can benefit local economies in Washington state. This lack of information is compounded as Washington state lacks a public tourism promotion agency or department; the state relies on various private-public partnerships that lack a focus on sector-specific opportunities like bicycle riding.
Other states including Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oregon are ahead of Washington in understanding the bicycle travel and tourism sector. An improved understanding of bike travel and tourism in Washington state is needed to take advantage of this economic development opportunity statewide.
Particularly in rural areas and in communities seeking to recover their economies after 2014’s natural disasters, like the SR 530 landslide or the Carleton Complex fire, a clearer picture of the market for this fast-growing sector of tourism and outdoor recreation will help position communities like Snohomish and Okanagan counties moving forward.