Business Feature – The Business of Biking
Story by Megan Whitehead | Oct 27, 2016
New bike lanes will benefit JC culturally, financially, and medically.
photos by David Bange
With our gorgeous river views, downtown, and capitol building, it’s no wonder that Jefferson City received the third most votes overall in Rand McNally’s Best of the Road contest, which also named JCMO the “Most Beautiful Small Town in America.”
How did we do it? Continual progress and improvements. In 2016 alone, we saw new and improved medical facilities, roundabouts and interchanges, businesses, and more.
At the beginning of August (with a grand opening in September), new bike lanes were painted on Bolivar Street. These lanes serve two important purposes for Jefferson City residents as well as people from around the world: easy access to local shopping, restaurants, and hotels, and safe commuting for residents.
“We have nice amenities in Jefferson City,” says city engineer David Bange. “The Katy Trail has 400,000 visitors spending $18 million a year.” According to the Katy Trail State Park website, “The Katy Trail has been a catalyst for tourism development, and many small businesses depend on the trail for an ongoing stream of customers. An economic impact study released in 2012 found that trail-related expenditures made by these customers in 2011 generated nearly $18.5 million a year in economic impact for the state, and supported 367 jobs with a payroll of $5.1 million. The overall economic impact to the local trail communities from visitor spending is $8.2 million.” Now some of that tourist traffic will benefit our town.
In addition, the Greenway has recently expanded through Wears Creek, off Dunklin Street. It now stretches 7 miles and connects downtown with Covington Gardens, the westernmost subdivision in town.
“These lanes were the missing link between the Katy Trail and the Greenway,” says Bange. Due to this new link, people can stop in JC to stay. Nick Smith, of Red Wheel Bike Shop on West Main Street, remembers meeting two guys, very shortly after the opening of the lanes, from Tasmania who were traveling across the U.S. He also recalls meeting a man on a cross-continental adventure; he began his cycling journey in Vancouver and was on his way to New York. Once there, he would board a freighter to England and bike to Wales for a wedding.
“The lanes show people from here and elsewhere that they are welcome and we are willing to accommodate them,” Smith says. “Cyclists who used to pass us by now stop to eat at our restaurants, stay at our hotels, and shop at our stores. They can now find a major town off the Katy Trail.”
“This is an important first step for growth in Jefferson City,” says Bange. “The lanes are more for recreation and tourism at this point, but the next step is to create more lanes to allow more access for people to commute.”
Even so, Smith says that he has already seen increased commuter traffic, presumably due to the addition of the bike and pedestrian lanes.
Aside from tourism and commuting, another benefit to opening up our town to bike lanes is better health. According to an article by Kathryn Doyle, in Reuters Health, “Every $1,300 New York City invested in building bike lanes in 2015 provided benefits equivalent to one additional year of life at full health over the lifetime of all city residents, according to a new economic assessment.” While JC and NYC are vastly different, the results are still impressive. It’s what your doctor is always telling you: The more you move, the healthier you are. These bike lanes provide a safe, beautiful way to get around town. “Adding bike lanes to motor vehicle roadways reduces the risk of injury and raises the probability of ridership, which increases physical activity and decreases pollution from the vehicles riders would otherwise be using,” says Doyle.
The CDC has even weighed in, in a transportation health impact assessment, stating, “Active transportation is any self-propelled, human-powered mode of transportation, such as walking or bicycling. Physical inactivity is a major contributor to the steady rise in rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic health conditions in the United States.” They go on to say that although many people see walking or cycling in town as unsafe for many reasons, improving the accessibility and safety of roadways and sidewalks (for example, by adding bike lanes) will encourage a more active lifestyle through walking or biking to school or work.
These positive effects of added bike lanes have been clearly seen in cities like New York, Long Beach, California, and Memphis. Added small business revenue, safer streets, and health benefits are almost always evident. While our city isn’t quite as large as the aforementioned ones, the benefits are the same. Jefferson City government and businesses have been proactive in trying to grow and expand our town. This new addition is clear proof that JC is ready and willing to progress.