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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bicycling is good for business, for Memphis, and for a whole lot more

Bicycling is good for business, for Memphis, and for a whole lot more
By:  Michael Lander

Cycling is a big business in the U.S. and around the world and is more
popular than several other outdoor activities combined.

Bicycling is big and it’s a much bigger revenue-generating industry in the U.S. than what most people might realize.  It has a much greater, and a more far-reaching impact, even on those who do not actually ride a bike themselves.

From a business standpoint, cycling is huge.  The bicycle industry, according to the
Outdoor Industry Foundation, is estimated to support 1.1 million jobs, and it generates nearly $18 billion in federal, state and local taxes.  It also contributes an astounding $133 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

In 2010, the
National Bicycle Dealers Association said that the bicycle industry was a $5.6 billion industry and, from 2003 to 2013, 178.6 million new bicycles were sold in the U.S. alone. 

Beyond the financial side of bicycling, the
National Sporting Goods Association, found that the number of Americans who rode bicycles is much greater than all those who ski, golf, and play tennis combined.

American television journalist,
Tom Brokaw, once said that it is easy to make a buck, but that it is a lot tougher to make a difference.  When it comes to cycling, it is something that truly makes a difference for both the individual who rides a bike and for the entire community that they live in.

Unlike so many other things that we might do in our lives, cycling brings people together.  It does this even though people who are involved in it come from different walks of life, are men or women, are from across the entire socioeconomic spectrum, and are young and old and everything in between.

Through the combined efforts of various organizations and the local, state,
and federal government, Memphians have seen an ever-increasing
number of places to ride and another way to connect with others in
different neighborhoods.

Cycling can even bring business, government, and non-profit organizations together for a common cause.  When they do this, they can make an enormous difference in shaping how and where cyclists can ride and it can unify a community together by connecting neighborhoods with bike lanes and trails with one another.

Unlike almost anything else, cycling unifies a community in a more intimate way than a car could ever do.  It can also offer alternative ways of getting around, it is good for the environment, it can be good for business, and it is especially good for health.  So why, you might ask, wouldn’t everybody support it?  This is a question, of course, that every citizen should ask those in political positions who represent them.

Outside of local, state and federal governments, who collaborate with one another to fund most cycling-related amenities, and a cycling infrastructure, there are organizations like
PeopleForBikes and the League of American Bicyclists who tirelessly work on behalf of cyclists.

PeopleForBikes does this by working with individual cyclists, businesses, community leaders, and their elected officials to, as they say, “create a powerful, united voice for bicycling and its benefits.”

The League of American Bicyclists has a similar mission and goal as PeopleFor Bikes in that they seek to represent and promote what is in the best interests of cyclists while striving to make roads safer, communities stronger, and to preserve the freedom that cycling brings to the cyclists everywhere.

Cyclists are becoming a more common sight around the University of
Memphis, which the university is encouraging with its bike share
program.

These organizations are crucial to giving cyclists a voice that can be heard at all levels of government.  Fortunately, for cyclists in
Memphis, our voices have not only been heard, but have been responded to a way that it has never been before.  Under the leadership of Mayor A.C. Wharton, the city has helped to develop and implement a cycling infrastructure that is set to become a role model for other cities across the U.S. to emulate.

An extensive cycling infrastructure, as cyclists hope to one day have in Memphis, will pay big dividends, not only for cyclists, but also for many of the areas businesses.  As the League of America Bicyclists showed in their
Bicycling Means Business:  The Economic Benefits of Bicycling Infrastructure,
cycling can be an extremely profitable endeavor to those areas who have invested in it.

Since government is not always fully capable of funding all cycling projects that a community might want, other funding is sometimes needed to make up the difference.  Of course, you might expect to see some businesses that have a vested interest in cycling to contribute, but you would also hope to see other businesses in your community also step up and give to cycling projects purely for the greater good of the community.

Businesses are as much of a part of a community as the people who work for them are and they should be seen as something more than just profit-driven entities.

As the cycling infrastructure grows and develops in Memphis, more people are
expected to begin taking advantage of it, with more people riding and
commuting by bicycle and more traveling to the city to experience it for
themselves.  This should provide greater revenue for the city and its
businesses, which will profit from all of it.

They are part of our lives and they prosper from the labor of their people and often thrive on the support of the local community.  By investing in cycling projects, businesses are able to not only tie their name to a project, but they can make an indelible impression on cyclists and those who might be attracted to coming to a city and working for a business that is willing to invest in the health and welfare of those within the community.

Today, the League of American Bicyclists considers 15 communities in
Tennessee as being bicycle-friendly.  Memphis, it says, is one of these communities and, as of this date, it has the city, Shelby Farms Conservancy, and the Revolutions Bicycle Cooperative listed as bicycle-friendly businesses. 

Those who live in Memphis know that there are many businesses that would qualify as bicycle-friendly and that this is just a matter of them being identified as such.  The
University of Memphis, for example, is not listed as a university that is bicycle-friendly, but it has a bike sharing program for students and employees and it has made considerable efforts to support and encourage cycling on its campus, which should entitle it to a cyclist-friendly status.

Recognizing businesses, organizations, and others who are cyclist-friendly with a
community impact award may be one way that the cycling community and the City of Memphis can show their appreciation to them for their efforts.  This could also serve as an incentive for other businesses to strive for.

Traveling by bicycle is an inexpensive and healthier alternative for
getting around town and all Memphians and local area businesses
stand the chance to benefit from all of it.

Of all the businesses in Memphis, there are few, if any, that have more of an impact than
FedEx.  Even though they have not yet had a direct impact on cycling in our city, for more than a decade, they have been a company that has promoted cycling, through its FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 bike ride. 

This event has drawn in many cyclists from the Memphis area and beyond and it has gotten many people interested and involved in cycling while supporting a cause that has greatly benefitted the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. 

Businesses who host events like FedEx does with its MS-150 do a commendable job of helping raise money for great causes and they are better positioned than some to help fund some of the cycling-related projects and to take cycling in our city to the next level.

In the most ideal situation, having businesses who would find a way to support cycling would be mutually beneficial for them, our cyclists, and for our entire community as a whole.  It can be a symbiotic relationship and one in which everyone comes away with something.

As with any relationship, though, it should be give-and-take, and while data has consistently shown what cycling can do for business, we might want to begin looking at this from another perspective and see what business can do for cycling. 

Bicycling is good for people, for business, the economy, and for the country as a whole.  This is why everyone should support cycling because even non-cyclists can find a way to benefit from it and even more so if they start cycling themselves.

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