Economic and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Northwest Arkansas

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Communities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale

Overview

In northwest Arkansas, a substantial investment in paved and unpaved trails has contributed substantially to the region’s well-being (measured in improved health) and economic performance (measured in visitor spending and employee retention). Evidenced by residents’ interest in living close to trails and willingness to pay more for homes near trails, cycling is an essential part of life in this region.

Relevance

This study is relevant for communities interested in a comprehensive overview of the types of benefits cycling can bring to a community. The study covers many dimensions of benefits from cycling, but caution should be used in not summing the different categories of benefits because they represent, in some cases, apples and oranges.

Location

This study is based in northwest Arkansas and includes the communities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale.

Trail Type

The study evaluates paved trails and mountain bike trails in the region.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to measure the economic and health benefits of cycling in northwest Arkansas to help justify recent and anticipated investments in bicycle infrastructure. The study was funded by the Walton Family Foundation in partnership with PeopleForBikes, a bicycle advocacy organization. 

Findings

  • About 90,000-150,000 out-of-state visitors to the area spend $27 million annually.
  • Homes a quarter mile from a paved trail sell for $6,300 more, on average, than homes one mile away from the trail. Nearly 30 percent of residents surveyed identified the availability of bike trails as extremely important in deciding where to live.
  • Ten percent of business owners report that the Razorback Greenway was extremely important when choosing a business location due to the proximity to cyclists as a customer base, accessibility of the business for customers and staff, and increased visibility for their business.
  • Residential developers are more likely to target areas close to the Greenway.
  • Human resource managers and business owners report that the region’s bicycle infrastructure helps retain employees, although it is not usually an incentive for people to move to the area.
  • Cycling in the area is associated with $7 million in avoided health care costs and 10 avoided deaths from non-sedentary living, estimated to be worth about $79 million annually.
  • The authors also developed templates to help other communities measure the benefits of bicycling locally (those are available here).

Methods

The authors collected information on cycling participation and preferences by surveying 615 residents of northwest Arkansas. This random sample included cyclists and non-cyclists. The authors also interviewed business owners, residential developers, and human resource managers to better understand the role of bicycle trails in business operations and household life. The authors estimated the benefits of avoided mortality from cycling using the World Health Organization’s Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT). Avoided health care costs were estimated using survey respondents’ reported physical activity. Estimates of the effects of proximity to trails on property value were calculated using a hedonic price model, which uses statistical methods to compare homes that are identical in characteristics such as size and age, but differ in terms of their distance from a trail. The authors estimate the share of local trail use attributable to visitors using data from Strava. They estimate visitor spending using data from the State of Arkansas tourism study.

Citation

BBC Research and Consulting. 2018. Economic and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Northwest Arkansas. Prepared for The Walton Family Foundation and PeopleForBikes. Denver, CO: BBC Research and Consulting.