Want more jobs? Build more bike lanes
The bike lane on Jarvis became a flashpoint when it was opened last year. A new study suggests projects just like it might be just the thing for lowering unemployment. (COLIN MCCONNELL/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
As the City of Toronto debates changes to its downtown bike lanes, a new study suggests city officials might be wise to build even more of the lanes, not cut back.
Why? It could create more jobs.
A new study released Monday has found bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure is more labour-intensive to build and creates 46 per cent more jobs overall than road-only projects.
The University of Massachusetts study, which examined 58 infrastructure projects in 11 U.S. cities, found that for each $1 million spent, cycling projects create a total of 11.4 local jobs. Pedestrian-only projects create slightly less, with an average of 10 jobs for $1 million spent, and multi-use trails create nearly as many with 9.6 jobs for the same amount of money. But road-only projects strictly for cars generate the least number of jobs, with just 7.8 jobs per $1 million.
“The main driver in the difference in job creation effects is the labour intensity of the various projects,” said Heidi Garrett-Peltier, the lead author of the study, titled “Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts.”
Garrett-Peltier says more engineering and planning is required when building new bike lanes and sidewalks, and this requires more labour. Cities have to consider where to mark the lanes, how to refurbish a road when adding a new lane, where to place drains and retaining walls, and what kind of signs to add, she says.
“And there are some projects in bike and pedestrian infrastructure that are more capital intensive,” she adds. “If a multi-use trail requires a bridge to be built, that will change the employment impacts than a trail that doesn’t require a bridge.”
While the study looked only at U.S. cities, Garrett-Peltier believes the overall trend is the same throughout North America.
“I do think if we included more projects and more cities, we’d see the same pattern emerge, but not necessarily in every city,” she said.
The study, which took about a year to complete, comes as U.S. lawmakers debate future funding for bicycling and walking infrastructure in a six-year Surface Transportation bill.
-- Paul Choi, Staff Reporter