There is a clear difference between the New Zealand and United States approach to promoting economic growth and the role of the bicycle. Encouraged by the overwhelming success of the Otago Rail Trail project, a key job summit recommendation was given federal backing to develop a national cycle network to bolster the tourism industry and create long-term growth. This seems to be the opposite direction to the United States which recently chose to pursue the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act which essentially removes bicycling from the Federal transportation program.
The New Zealand committee tasked with developing the national cycle network is focused on bringing tourists to agricultural communities. By its nature cycling tourism is dependent upon a support network of cafe’s, restaurants, pubs, hotels, and bed & breakfasts. Accompanying services include tour operators and linking transportation services. The goal is to add jobs far beyond the few that are required to simply build the bicycle infrastructure; they’re focused on long-term economic growth and succeeding by offering people exacrly what they want on their vacation.
This week’s decision by the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to adopt this Act with no apparent thought to integrate bicycle infrastructure is a bump in the road to a brighter future. The benefits of a diverse transportation infrastructure are clear and make for happier, healthier, and safer communities far beyond what the car alone can offer.
There really is no economic argument to completely ignore investments in bicycle infrastructure. The Alliance for Biking & Walking highlights key economic figures in its 2012 Benchmarking Report: For every $1 invested in biking and walking projects communities can expect $11.80 in benefits. One million dollars invested in bicycle infrastructure creates 11-14 jobs compared to just 7 jobs for the same investment in highway projects, and so on.
Please enjoy this video by Russ Roca as he explores the New Zealand cycle trail experience, and the economic growth this investment is likely to create.