Building Bike Lanes Creates Twice as Many Jobs as Road Repairs


Politicians often promise to create jobs if elected. But how can a politician make jobs? Apparently by building bike lanes, as these projects create twice as many jobs as road repairs and resurfacing. So when do we start digging?

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is a very vocal supporter of transportation projects besides highway and road projects for cars. In particular, he seems very interested in the prospect of more bike lanes in cities. According to a recent study cited by LaHood, road repair and upgrade projects create, on average, about seven jobs per $1 million spent, which includes labor and material costs. Sounds like a good deal, right?

Well not compared to building bike lanes. Bike lanes and boulevards require fewer materials, but more labor, and as a result for every $1 million spent there are about 14 jobs created. That’s twice as many as highway repair and upgrade projects. Sounds much more cost effective to me.

I’m all for bike lanes, even though I’m an avid auto enthusiast. I’d much prefer to take a bike downtown than drive my gas-guzzling Jeep, but without bike lanes I take my life in my hands (I simply do not trust other drivers). The only question I have about this study is what about total jobs created? I say this because while your average highway project runs in the tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, many bike projects don’t even break a million bucks. You can only spend so much on a bike lane, but highway projects are much more complicated and involved…and thus probably employ more people in the long term. Also, I imagine the upkeep for bike lanes is a lot less too, again, employing fewer people than repaving a road.

So I guess I’m kinda split on this. Is it better to build multiple bike lanes that employ more people per-dollar spent, or one HUGE highway project that employs hundreds of people over many years?

Source: Infrastructurist | Fastlane Blog | Bike League Study (pdf)

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Be ambivalent no more, come to Vancouver and weep for the idiocy of bike lanes that are unused and yet manage to screw up two major arteries in downtown Vancouver and keep people from spending money on downtown businesses.
    The purpose of downtown is for shopping,restaurants, entertainment as well as downtown offices.
    In an often relatively wet, cool city there is never going to be much bike commuting and only a tiny (and slightly deranged) fraction is going to come any significant distance into the city by bike for restaurants and movies and the like.
    Meanwhile private cars and bus transport gets choked off.
    We have wasted $3mm on bike lanes, I can only hope that it serves as a generous gesture to show other cities what they should not do

  • Oh please….. more liberal nonsense here. This whopper is right up there with ‘new roads only create new traffic jams’. Does the constant dishonesty ever bother you liberals?

  • Bike lanes are a disaster. I’ve seen some cool European bike highways that meander along their own root, but the bike lanes that exist around the country are awful. They put bicyclists in the crosshairs of unobservant road-raging drivers, and they turn decent people into involuntary manslaughterers. The societal cost is much much too high, and so are the insurance costs as well. Biking in a bike lane is more dangerous that riding a motorcycle, imo, and you don’t even get the same thrill.

    Bike lanes will keep you awake at night, and I hope that the US Federal government is not so stupid as to make bike lanes a Federal project.

    In some cities around the country with high equine populations, equine trails are quite common and they weave their way through the town without disrupting road traffic or private property. If a town wanted to do the same thing for bikes it would be cool, but bike lanes are a major folly.

  • Straight Sh00ter

    There may be twice as many jobs, but the wages attached to those jobs is half as much.
    Note that the article explains how the bike paths are “labor intensive”, which is code for “unskilled shovel pushers”.
    LaHood has an agenda, which is to convert the Dept of Transportation into the Dept of Political Correctness.

  • That is really great – more people need to ride bikes, even to & from work, when possible

  • to create serious amounts of jobs we need to implement large scale infrastructure projects like NAWAPA, the North American Water and Power Alliance. creating millions of jobs in weeks.

  • It’s going to come down to public perception of which option is more acceptable.
    Bike lanes are a “feel good” project which can enhance a cohesive downtown or shopping area, but only if the area in question has a bike-friendly “feel” about it. Also, bike lanes are short-term, low impact projects that offer only temporary employment for low-skilled workers.
    Highway and road projects are “utilitarian” in scale and require not only low-skilled workers but also highly educated planners, engineers, etc, to make the project feasible. Road projects are often years in undertaking and employ many more people for longer periods of time at, often, higher wages. But they are high-impact, intrusive projects that often leave drivers foaming at the mouth as they enter the construction zones.
    It’s a big trade-off and only the public in the area affected should be questioned as to which they prefer.
    And if you ever want to see the ULTIMATE highway construction project, I suggest you check out the I-94/80 Interchange outside of Chicago. If I remember correctly, that project began in the ’60’s and has been in continuous construction since.
    It’s quite beautiful in its simplicity, really. An eight-lane highway is reduced to four lanes, in both directions. While repairs are made on the non-transit lanes, the lanes in use become so worn out so quickly that, as soon as the non-transit lanes are completed, the roads are reversed and repairs begin on the new non-transit lanes. The prior repaired lanes become quickly worn down and, once the new newly repaired non-transit lanes are completed, the roads are reversed and the process repeats itself. Forever.
    I understand many a road crew workers have had their entire careers, and retirements, based on working ONLY the I-94/80 Interchange.
    God bless Chicago! The wheels may be greased, but they are always turning…

  • Holy shit talk much? Every article Chris has wrote he’s ended it with a question. Yet on a blog about new vehicle technologies people get hung up
    on bike lanes. I think it’s the amount of money brought into the equation that makes more people over think it.

    Of all the places I’ve lived, bike lanes have helped. When it comes to downtown Vancouver I usually took transit. I’m no expert. They feel more like a concession to the activists and cycling community by whoever is in charge of city project money. Wider roads in routes than can afford the road widening are always good to me. People are going to cycle no matter what. Painting a line on the road informs drivers where not to wander into without shoulder checking.

    I used to drive a big furniture delivery truck in northern BC, Canada. There were idiots cycling in winter. Right in the middle of my lane wearing all black at night with hoodies on blocking their peripheria. Snowbanks keeping them from riding on the sidewalk or near the curb. They usually looked fucking poor. That’s their only way of transport. There are lots of idiots on bikes; immature kids, kids too young to be cycling on their own, gangsters on bmxs’. Too many types. There are also average normal cycling citizens. Same goes for drivers. Most cyclists aren’t wealthy nor are homeless, but they are damn appreciative of the extra space. I know I do when I do my summer leisure cycling.

    Road repair will always be required, adding a feature (bike lanes) to infrastructure details a city. It says something. Most of Canada has horrible pot holes and frost heaves that scar the road. I’m for both really. How it happens is up to the planners.

  • I liked what Doug had to say.

  • You can’t really analyze this sort of thing in terms of jobs created because how do you measure all the money added to the economy by having better roads that result in fewer delays to journeys and thus make firms more profitable (even if only a little bit). This added value of having roads repaired or new roads created probably saves if not creates many times the number of jobs compared to the employment on the actual project.

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