Community and Economic Benefits of Bicycling in Michigan

Uses studied:
Place: Statewide


This study found that bicycling in Michigan generates $224 million annually through retail spending, manufacturing, and event and tourism spending. Additionally, the improved health of those who commute to work by bicycle in the state is associated with up to $256 million in avoided annual health care costs.


This study is unique among state-wide economic impact studies in this library (see 68, 71, 74, 75, 80, 83, and 84) in that it developed detailed analyses for individual communities as representative case studies, improving the accuracy of the analysis and making the results more relevant at a municipal level. This is one of two state-wide studies (see also 87) we are aware of that collected primary data on cycling use and expenditures across the state, rather than relying on U.S. Census or other data.


This study assessed state-wide cycling in Michigan as well as cycling in five communities across the state:

  • Ann Arbor (population 115,331 in 2013) is a university community with one of the highest proportions of commuters by bicycle in Michigan.
  • Grand Rapids (population 189,735 in 2013) is the second-largest city in the state has recently experienced a dramatic increase in cycling rates and investment in cycling infrastructure.
  • Holland (population 33,281 in 2013) is located in southwestern Michigan and has 150 miles of bike paths that attract tourists from Michigan and Chicago.
  • Traverse City (population 14,942 in 2013) is in northern Michigan, with numerous recreation trails and an economy driven by tourism and the community’s appeal as a retirement destination.
  • Conner Creek Greenway Corridor and Southwest Detroit are two Detroit neighborhoods where a nine-mile bike path is planned. The city population was 706,663 in 2013, and this study reports that the neighborhoods had a combined population of 163,000 residents.

Additional detail about selection criteria for case study communities is available in the Methods section.

Trail Type

The study does not evaluate a particular trail, but instead examines bicycling across the state, including in communities with bike paths, designated touring routes, and mountain bike trails.


The purpose of the study is to evaluate community and economic benefits of bicycling across Michigan and in five case study communities using four sources for benefits: household spending, bicycle manufacturing, bicycle tourism and events, and health and reduced absenteeism. The goal of this information is to describe the connection between bicycling and the economy for business owners, elected officials, and cycling advocates. The study was commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation.


  • Michigan households spend $175 million each year on bicycling-related expenses.
  • Bicycle manufacturing generates $11 million in annual revenue.
  • Bicycling events and tourism are associated with $38 million in spending.
  • One-third of respondents report commuting by bicycle at least one day per week.
  • Respondents identified a lack of infrastructure (52%), weather conditions (52%), and safety concerns (48%) as the biggest barriers to cycling more frequently.
  • Two-thirds of respondents report riding their bicycle at least two days per week. Avoided health care costs for diseases associated with inactivity could be as much as $256 million across the state. As with other studies that used similar methods to calculate avoided healthcare costs (see 47 and 48), this analysis assumes that no bicycle commuters would contract the diseases analyzed, and as a result the estimates are likely high.


The authors used existing data for many of the state-wide estimates in the study and gathered original data via surveys in the case study communities.

The authors conducted an online survey of Michigan residents, asking about their bicycling habits and spending. Participants were recruited through statewide bicycle organizations and at bicycling events, at businesses in case study communities, and via random sampling in the case study communities. The authors received more than 3,200 completed surveys. The sampling method used did not allow them to calculate a response rate. While not a scientific, random sample, they did have a large number of responses and the random mailing allowed them to survey individuals who were not necessarily cyclists.

Data on bicycling-related industries, health outcomes, and bicycling participation came from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dun & Bradstreet, Michigan Department for Community Health, and Michigan bicycling organizations.

Avoided health care costs were calculated by multiplying the proportion of residents who use their bicycle at least two days per week by the total costs of treating diseases related to inactivity in the community. These methods assume that those who cycle regularly will not develop these diseases, and are similar to other state-wide studies (see 74 and 75).

The five case study communities were included because they had a local bicycling industry and active bicycle-related organizations, the local government was interested in the bicycling industry, and there were local stakeholders who supported the study. The authors also sought to represent a range of community sizes, locations, and economies as well as cycling for commuting and recreation.


BBC Research & Consulting. 2014. Community and Economic Benefits of Bicycling in Michigan. Prepared for the Michigan Department of Transportation.