Europe’s cycling economy has created 650,000 jobs

Cycling industry employs more people than mining and quarrying with potential for a million jobs by 2020, says new study

Europe’s cycling industry now employs more people than mining and quarrying and almost twice as many as the steel industry, says new study Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Europe’s cycling industry now employs more people than mining and quarrying and almost twice as many as the steel industry, says new study Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Europe’s cycling industry now employs more people than mining and quarrying and almost twice as many as the steel industry, according to the first comprehensive study of the jobs created by the sector.

Some 655,000 people work in the cycling economy – which includes bicycle production, tourism, retail, infrastructure and services – compared to 615,000 people in mining and quarrying, and just 350,000 workers directly employed in the steel sector.

If cycling’s 3% share of journeys across Europe were doubled, the numbers employed could grow to over one million by 2020, says the ‘Jobs and job creation in the European cycling sector’ study which will be published next month.

Kevin Mayne, the development director at the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) which commissioned the paper, said that it had a very simple message for governments and local authorities: “You know that investing in cycling is justified from your transport, climate change and health budgets. Now we can show clearly that every cycle lane you build and every new cyclist you create is contributing to job growth. Investing in cycling provides a better economic return than almost any other transport option. This should be your first choice every time.”

“This report is another example of the way that a transformation to a green, low-carbon economy can create jobs with the appropriate investment,” Julian Scola, a spokesman for the European Trade Union Confederation told the Guardian. “There needs to be investment in various kinds of transport infrastructure, including cycling.”

The study, which the Guardian has seen, finds that cycling has a higher employment intensity than any other transport sub-sector.

Growth in the cycling economy should thus have a higher job creation potential than in the automotive industry for example, which employs three times less people per million euros of turnover.

Surprisingly, the lion’s share of jobs in the new free-wheeling economy are in bicycle tourism – including accommodation and restaurants – which employs 524,000 people, compared to 80,000 in retail, the next highest sub-sector.

New innovations such as e-bikes, as well as road safety campaigns, and infrastructure projects could boost the cycling economy further according to the ECF, which wants 10% of Europe’s transport budget to be set aside for cycling.

In general, cycling jobs are more geographically stable than other sectors, and offer a more inclusive and easily accessible labour market for low-skilled workers, says the new report, which was produced by the Transport and Mobility Leuven research institute.

The study also signals some unexpected knock-on benefits that bikes can have for local businesses. Cycling “contributes probably more to the local economy than the use of other transport modes,” because “cyclists go more to local shops, restaurants, cafes than users of other transport modes,” the paper says.

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