Bicyclists generate $1 million a day for Iowa's economy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa bicyclists generate $1 million a day for the state's economy

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

This time of year, the owner of Europa Cycle & Ski in Cedar Falls spends a lot of time focused on the ski-side of his business; but lately, Russ Clarke said the cycle-side of things is cranking up sales year-round.

"Ten, 15, 20 years ago it was very unusual. I could probably count on one hand the number of people that were dedicated commuters, dedicated lifestyle riders. Now it's hundreds. It's increasingly common to see that year-round," said Clarke.

This week the University of Northern Iowa released a new study about the impact of bike riding on the state's economy. Researchers say, commuters are now generating more than $50 million annually, and riders, as a whole, spend a great deal more each year.

"The direct and indirect impact of bicycle related activities related to recreation bicycling is about $364 million a year," said Dr. Sam Lankford, the program director for UNI's Sustainable Tourism and Environment Program.

That works out to about one million dollars each day. Plus, bikers say, they'd ride more -- and spend more -- if there were more trails available.

"If communities invest in bicycle related facility there is a return on the investment," Lankford said.

One of the highlights for the bicycle community in Iowa is the Cedar Valley trail system. In fact, Clarke said he's seen people come from all over the world just to ride the trails in Cedar Falls and Waterloo.

"When I have people coming from Canada, and from -- seriously -- Colorado and Montana to ride the trails, the trail system is that good!" Clarke said.

Clarke believes, other Iowa communities are learning from the Cedar Valley's example.

"There are smaller towns and larger towns that are pursuing trail systems, because it does bring in revenue and income," he explained.

It also creates a healthier population. Lankford reports Iowans who are regular riders save the state nearly $74 million each year in health costs. And that's something that benefits everyone -- rider or not.

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