Guide to Best Practices

Economic Development Impacts of Nonmotorized Transport

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Economic Development Impacts of Nonmotorized Transport

Nonmotorized transport can support economic development in several ways described below.25

Regional Economic Productivity and Development

Excessive automobile dependency imposes significant economic costs that can reduce economic productivity and development. These include increased vehicle and facility costs, congestion, less efficient land use, and economic costs from collisions and pollution.26 Expenditures on automobiles and fuel provide little regional economic activity because they are capital intensive and mostly imported from other regions. A recent study indicates that automobile expenditures provide far less regional economic activity and employment than most other consumer expenditures, indicating that reducing automobile dependency tends to increase economic development.
Table 6 Regional Economic Impacts of $1 Million Expenditure27

Expenditure Category

Regional Income

Regional Jobs

Automobile Expenditures



Non-automotive Consumer Expenditures



Transit Expenditures



This table shows economic impacts of consumer expenditures in Texas.

Community Amenities

Nonmotorized facilities such as public trails can stimulate tourist activity, increase property values, and help attract certain types of industries, particularly knowledge-based businesses with employees who place a high value on amenities such as environmental quality, access to greenspace, and outdoor recreation.28

Local Business Activity

Some commercial districts find that nonmotorized transport increases business activity. Nonmotorized transport land requirements for roads and parking, and commercial destinations can be located in closer proximity to one another. This allows for both greater site flexibility and efficiency, and generates financial savings from reduced parking requirements. A study in Bern, Switzerland found that cyclists spend far more money per area of commercial parking than motorists. Only 25% of motorists buy more than 2 bags of shopping - a quantity easily shipped by bike or on foot, while 17% of cyclists also buy 'car sized' loads and take it home.29

Cost Effective mobility

The majority of packages delivered weigh less than 30Kkg, loads easily transported on foot or by bicycle. Nonmotorized deliveries are often faster than by automobile, and are far cheaper in terms of operating, facility (roads and parking) and congestion costs. Surveys indicate that only about 25% of shoppers actually carry away a load that would be difficult to manage on foot or bike.

Police and some emergency response personnel find that they can perform more effectively by bicycle rather than car. They are swift, quiet and approachable, and can reach more destinations that motor vehicles.

Bicycle parking is far cheaper than automobile parking, and can often be incorporated into currently unused spaces. Employees who bicycle to work reduce parking costs and leave more parking available for customers.

Economic Development Impacts of Nonmotorized Transport

Cycling The Way Ahead For Towns And Cities, DG XI - Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection, European Community, 1999, ISBN 92-828-5724-7 EC no CR-17-98-693-EN-C, Free from DG XI Fax: +32 2 299 0307.

Todd Litman and Felix Laube, Automobile Dependency and Economic Development, VTPI (, 1999.

Todd Litman, First Resort; Resort Community TDM, VTPI (, 1999.

III. Nonmotorized Transportation Planning

Pedestrians and cyclists have both similarities and differences that must be considered in planning, as illustrated below. This section of the guide examines combined planning issues, particularly the development of multi-use trails. Later there are separate sections on pedestrian planning and bicycling planning which address their unique features.
Comparing Pedestrians and Bicyclists



 Tend to be slower than motor vehicle traffic.

Vulnerable to weather, traffic volumes and speeds, pollution.

  • Are unlicensed.

 Include wide range of ages and abilities

(may include people with special needs).

 Bicyclists can travel much faster and farther than pedestrians.

 Pedestrians are the slowest mode, can change directions quickly, and frequently stop.

 Bicyclists can ride on roadway and follow vehicle traffic rules.

 Pedestrians require separated facilities.

1. Integrating With State or Provincial Planning

Your local plan should integrate with planning by other agencies including departments of transportation, transit, and ferry companies.

2. Planning Multi-Use Trails

Multi-use trails (trails that accommodate a variety of uses, including walking, bicycling, skating, skiing, and sometimes horses) are popular and an important part of many community’s nonmotorized transportation system. It is likely that your planning process will identify many potential multi-use paths and trails.
Multi-use trails must be adequately designed, built, and maintained if they are to make a useful contribution to nonmotorized transport. Trails must be more than just an extra wide sidewalk; they should make connections and go where roads do not, and provide an extra safe and pleasant environment. Designs should meet standards established by professional organizations, such as AASHTO and the Canadian Institute of Planners.

A trail system should be integrated with other pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and connected to popular destinations, including parks, schools, colleges, employment centers and commercial centers. Connections with the street system should be carefully designed, and signed to indicate street name and path destination. A high-quality multi-use trail, such as a converted railroad right-of-way, can become the core of a regional trail system that will expand in the future.

A multi-use path is not a substitute for adequate on-street facilities. All roadways should be safe for cycling to accommodate cyclists who ride too fast for trails or have destinations not served by the path. Similarly, sidewalks may be needed along roadways for pedestrian access to certain destinations, even if a path is nearby.


Planning Trails and Other Nonmotorized Facilities

Alta, Best Practices Analysis in Rails-With-Trails, Alta Transport Consulting (, 2001.

American Trails ( fosters communication among trail users.

AASHTO, Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 3rd Edition, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (Washington DC; 888-227-4860;, 1999; available online at

David Engwicht, Street Reclaiming; Creating Livable Streets and Vibrant Communities, New Society Publishers (, 1999.

Greenways: A Guide to Planning, Design, and Development, 1993. The Conservation Fund. Island Press, 1718 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300; Washington, DC 20009.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), FHWA ( “Part IX: Traffic Controls for Bicycle Facilities” provides facility sign and marking standards.

BTS, Bicycle and Pedestrian Data: Sources, Needs & Gaps, USDOT (, 2000.

National Bicycle and Walking Study (24 volumes), FHWA, (, 1991-95.

NHI, Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Accommodation; Participant Workbook, National Highway Institute Course #38061, FHWA, 1996, information at

Northwestern University Traffic Institute (Evanston, Illinois; 800-323-4011; offers professional bicycle planning and facility design workshops.

Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning ( is an example of nonmotorized planning at its best.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (1-877-WALKBIKE; provides a variety of technical information on nonmotorized transport planning and programs.

Suzan Anderson Pinsof and Terri Musser, Bicycle Facility Planning, Planners Advisory Service, American Planning Association (Chicago; 312-786-6344), 1995.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, (202-331-9696; provides many resources, including Improving Conditions for Bicycling and Walking; A Best Practices Report.

TAC, Bikeway Traffic Control Guidelines, Transportation Association of Canada (Ottawa; 613-736-1350;, 1999.

Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (, Pedestrian and Bicycle Planning.

Rails-To-Trails Conservancy ( is an organization dedicated to helping communities develop public trails. It provides a variety of information and resources.

SWOV, Best Practice to Promote Cycling and Walking, Denmark Ministry of Transport (, European Commission Directorate General of Transport, 1998.

University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (

The WSDOT Pedestrian website ( provides information about Washington State’s outstanding pedestrian and bicycle planning programs.

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