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If government invests more to promote bicycling and walking, it would help both Utah's economy and the health of residents, according to a study conducted by the Utah Transit Authority in collaboration with 11 other transportation and health agencies.
The review sought to put a dollar value on the benefits of such things as bicycle and walking trails, bike tourism and cost savings from improving health through "active transportation." Among the findings:
• Direct sales in cycling-related businesses in Utah amount to $132 million. The total economic impact, based on a multiplier effect, is $303.9 million, fueling nearly 2,000 jobs and more than $46 million in income.
• More than $61 million is spent on bike tourism each year in Utah. That translates into more than $121 million in economic output, 1,500 jobs and $46 million in income earned.
• About 45 percent of Utahns exercise less than the recommended 150 minutes per week. They could save an estimated $3.07 in annual health care costs for every mile they walk or 75 cents for every mile they bike.
• If one of about every 50 Salt Lake County residents who now do not get the recommended amount of exercise started walking 3 miles or one hour a week, the resulting reduction in absenteeism at work would produce $2.6 million in economic output and $900,000 in income.
• The study performed case studies on the economic effects of two bike and walking trails. It said the Murdock Canal Trail in Utah County costs $113,000 a year to maintain but generates $3.6 million a year in economic impact. Bicyclists who visit the Dead Horse Point trails near Moab generate $19 million a year in economic impact, including more than $11 million from overnight trips.
"This study validates what we at UTA already knew that biking and walking is an important part of local economies and a healthy choice for our passengers," said UTA President and CEO Jerry Benson.
UTA has been especially interested in trails to help its passengers travel from transit stops to their homes or work, and to help make mass transit more practical for more people.
"UTA encourages people to ride their bikes and take trails to get to our trains and buses," Benson said. "We do this by partnering with communities to build bike paths and trails along our routes. We have also added bike lockers and racks to our trains and buses."
Phil Sarnoff, executive director of Bike Utah, said, "This study is a great first step in showing the general public, municipalities, the business and health communities, and our elected official that investing in bicycling and walking for both transportation and recreation can pay dividends."
The study said that Utah gets fair-to-mediocre marks in how many people walk and bike.
The research shows that 2.5 percent of Utahns walk to work, slightly below the national median of 2.8 percent ranking No. 27 among the states. Utah ranked No. 12 for the 0.9 percent of people who bike to work.
Utah is slightly under the national spending per capita on bicycle and pedestrian, projects at $2.32 per person, compared with $2.36 nationally.
Partners with UTA on the study were Bike Utah; the Utah Department of Transportation; the Governor's Office of Energy Development; Utah Department of Health; Salt Lake County Health Department; Salt Lake County Office of Regional Transportation, Housing and Economic Development; Wasatch Front Regional Council; Tooele County Health Department; Weber-Morgan Health Department; Mountainland Association of Governments; Park City; Intermountain Healthcare; and Salt Lake County Bicycle Advisory Committee.