Bike Walking & Blogging: Economic Flexibility
You know the story - the employment outlook is grim and growth is at a crawl. Do you need some good news on the economic front? Think bicycling, walking, and transit.
"The Twin Cities are gradually but surely becoming a central hub in the national bike economy," reports Minnesota Business in a recent story, "Inside Minnesota's Booming Bike Economy." Independent bike shops, parts manufacturers and distributors, frame builders, and other direct bicycle businesses account for an estimated $315 million annual revenue, according to the story. That's jobs, GNP, and local vitality that can support other businesses like advertising, accounting, design, commercial space and more. Moreover, it's a piece of the macroeconomy that will likely continue to flourish. We all benefit from this economic activity whether or not we log miles on two wheels.
The micro perspective is just as compelling. More people will have jobs and pursue education to enhance their employability if they can get where they need to go efficiently and cost effectively. For the 40% of Minnesota residents who do not drive, access to bike-walk-transit is critical to mobility. The American Automobile Association calculates the annual cost of owning and operating a vehicle as $8,487 - more if you own an SUV or minivan, or drive more than 15,000 miles. On the flip side, a year's worth of unlimited transit use is only $1,020. An investment of several hundred dollars scores a good used bike, helmet and lock for years of mobility. The cost of walking shoes and umbrella and maybe a rain poncho is even less. Individuals and households with transportation options are more economically viable.
Often the cost to maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle is a more important barometer than the number of jobs. If we can decrease the cost of our lifestyle, we won't need so many traditional jobs. For example, if you reduce your family's dependence on two cars to one or even zero cars, your household might be able to afford a move from two full-time jobs to 1.75 jobs and still do all the things you want to do. Add a few other budget adjustments and you could need only 1.6 or 1.5 jobs in your household. Creative budgeting solutions and an open mind are what it takes to reduce the cost of lifestyle and free up excess job demand - moving employment opportunities to families with job deficit. If creating jobs is something we're having a tough time doing, it makes sense to look at the demand side of the equation. The job outlook is indeed gloomy by traditional measures. Macro or micro, bike-walk-transit is part of the economic solution.