Detroit News

The Motor City may have put the world on wheels, but the power of the pedals helps keep the state economy going.

Cycling injects about $ 668 million a year into Michigan’s economy, according to a recent report from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

That figure takes into account the nearly 800 people employed in cycling-related jobs, as well as income from retailing, spending on tourism, falling health care costs and increased productivity.

The study, “Community and Economic Benefits of Cycling in Michigan,” highlighted five communities to assess how the sport affects their outcomes.

The second largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids, has benefited the most from cycling. It grossed $ 39.1 million, nearly double the $ 20.7 million reported by Detroit.

Ann Arbor easily grabbed second place with a boost of $ 25.4 million.

Detroit is making inroads, however. Detroit Bikes, Shinola, and Detroit Bicycle Co. – all of which produce their own two-wheelers as part of the $ 6 billion US bicycle industry – have opened in recent years.

Kris Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids, can see it. She sees the profits piling up on bike wheels daily, with over 20 bikes parked in her microbrewery throughout the day.

“Cyclists tend to like beer,” Spaulding said, and they often come in groups to socialize.

Spaulding and her husband, Jason, seized the needs of their clientele and added 12 bike racks, an air compressor to fill in punctures, and a bike repair rack with tools affixed. “We started selling inner tubes in our retail store because a lot of people were asking for them,” she said.

Their employees also enjoy cycling to work, which is why Brasserie Vivant has on-site showers, a bicycle helmet reimbursement program, a loaner bike and a quarterly safety workshop.

The League of American Cyclists recently recognized the pioneering spirit of Brewery Vivant with a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business award.

“Because 43% of our staff live within a mile of their workplace, we know it pays to invest in them and consider their needs,” said Spaulding.

Grand Rapids began adding bike lanes to city streets in 2010 and now has 55 miles of bike lanes with more planned. It has a bike path, hundreds of bike racks and an extensive network of suburban trails, said Suzanne Schulz, general manager of design, development and community engagement for Grand Rapids.

“We are really trying to have a more holistic view of the transport infrastructure for the whole community, because a lot of people don’t have a car,” said Schulz.

This philosophy will pay off, said Glenn Pape, professor of public and government policy for Michigan State University Extension.

He cites a study from Portland State University which indicates that while people who arrive by car spend more per trip, cyclists visit more frequently and spend more per month on average.

Pape is happy to see communities and businesses adopt bike-sharing programs, in which members borrow bikes from kiosks across town.

Ann Arbor recently launched ArborBike, a sharing program overseen by the Clean Energy Coalition. In its first four days, it enrolled 100 members who made 240 trips.

General Motors Co., following the lead of Quicken Loans and DTE Energy, became the first automaker to adopt a bike-sharing program. At its 330-acre Warren Tech Center, employees can take a bicycle instead of their car or a shuttle bus to all 61 campus buildings. It already has 1,400 participants and an average of 80 runners per day.

“It promotes face-to-face collaboration and improves productivity,” said Tisa Dee, GM purchasing director, who worked with Zagster, a bike-sharing pioneer, to bring the program to the Tech Center.

“An employee told me that he had had three face-to-face meetings at three different locations on campus – and that he was using a bicycle rather than conference calling from his office, so that led him to to move around and collaborate with our employees in a very healthy way. “

It’s a way of making GM workers look at the world differently, said David Tulauskas, GM’s sustainability director.

“Strategically, this program has many advantages,” he said. “We inspire our employees to think long term and explore new business model possibilities for a congested and urbanized world. “

Detroit bike builders are small batch builders, assembling only a handful per year, but Detroit Bikes founder Zak Pashak is about to change that. His 20-employee company manufactured 1,000 commuter bikes in its first year of operation. Pashak has moved into a 50,000 square foot factory in East Detroit and plans to produce 5,000 in the company’s second year and, ideally, 50,000 in the following years.

“We are helping to redefine the way people think about cycling,” Pashak said.

Rene Wisely is a freelance writer from Metro Detroit.

Pedal power

What impact can cycling have on a community? The Michigan Department of Transportation looked at five to find out which ones benefit the most. They are:

Cross the city: $ 5.5 million

Holland: $ 6.4 million

Detroit (southwest of Detroit and the Conner Creek Greenway area): $ 20.7 million

Ann Arbor: $ 25.4 million

Great Rapids: $ 39.1 million

Source: MDOT