By Michael Pearson
National Bike Month is about to wrap up, but there is still time to note that Georgia Institute of Technology economist Shatakshee Dhongde is conducting the first-ever project to measure the economic impact of bicycling in the state.
Dhongde, an associate professor in the School of Economics, is working on the three-year study for the Georgia Department of Transportation. The project will provide an assessment of the overall economic benefit of bicycling in the state, including the benefits of new bike trials, construction of bike lanes along streets, the sale and repair of bikes, and revenue generated by bicycling events throughout the state.
“This project looks at why investment in alternative, smart infrastructure is not only environmentally friendly but also can have a big impact on the state’s economy,” Dhongde said.
“From the point of view of production, the bicycling industry creates jobs, in manufacturing, infrastructure, construction and maintenance,” she said. “Numerous case-studies have shown that development of bicycle trails have provided a boost to local businesses, tourism and the service sector. On the consumers’ side, the benefits of bicycling occur in terms of transportation, health, safety and recreation.”
Dhongde previously conducted a case study of the economic impact of the Firefly Trail in Northeast Georgia, a planned 39-mile multi-use trail between Athens and Union Point. Since Dhongde’s initial study, a 1-mile segment has opened in Athens.
The study estimated that construction of the Firefly trail could result in a one-time boost to the regional economy of $32 million, with ongoing economic impact of $14.7 million a year.
Student research assistants Sarah Tinsley, Nathan Moen, and Rebecca Smith, have been helping Dhongde on the project. Moen and Smith are undergraduate students in economics. Smith graduated in 2017 with degrees in economics and international affairs.
Dhongde expects to complete the study in 2020.
The School of Economics is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.