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An economy on two wheels: Cycling’s power in Europe

November 14, 2014

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Here’s a statistic to wrap your head around. More people work in the bicycling industry in Europe than in mines and quarries. And, almost twice as many jobs have been created by cycling than by steel.

That’s the finding of a new study by the European Cyclists Federation, quoted by The Guardian.

It says 650,000 people work in various jobs related to cycling, such as bicycle production, tourism, retailing, services and infrastructure. That trumps the 350,000 people still working in steel, and beats that 615,000 who work as miners.

Kevin Mayne, the development director at the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) which commissioned the paper, told The Guardian that it had a very simple message for governments and local authorities: “You know that investing in cycling is justified from your transport, climate change and health budgets. Now we can show clearly that every cycle lane you build and every new cyclist you create is contributing to job growth. Investing in cycling provides a better economic return than almost any other transport option. This should be your first choice every time.”

Granted, the study is by a trade organization. But there’s one interesting suggestion. Right now, 3 percent of all journeys across Europe take place by bicycle. If that could double to 6 percent, the federation says 1 million jobs could be created. The ECF is pushing for 10 percent of European transit budgets to be set aside for cycling related purposes.

The survey shows that the lion’s share of cycling jobs is related to tourism. Having been a bicycle tourist whose group’s motto was, “We ride to eat,” I can attest that cyclists are more than happy to spend on meals and hotels after their rides are over.

And the study points out that cyclists are happy users of cafes and coffee shops on their local rides, too. In fact, they’re more likely to stop and dine than users of other types of transit.


European Cyclists’ Federation Website

The League of American Cyclists


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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