The bicycling industry added $159 million to the local economy last year, according to a new study from the University of Arkansas.
Officials with the university’s Center for Business and Economic Research on Monday announced the findings of the analysis, which examined the economic and health benefits of biking from cycling-related jobs, tourism revenue and taxes across Washington and Benton counties.
The 2022 study was commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation and follows a similar analysis from 2018.
The findings show that biking business has emerged as a significant economic driver, generating revenue exceeding $100 million annual through bike shops, repairs, equipment, and trail maintenance. The industry also created 743 jobs and contributed $6.1 million in state and local taxes. Furthermore, the influence of cycling extended beyond the core biking activities, as it fueled the growth of ancillary sectors such as hospitality, dining, and retail, the study found. The hosting of cycling events, for instance, necessitates the availability of hotels, restaurants, and shopping establishments, which, in turn, generates additional revenue streams.
The resulting biking tourism was responsible for $59 million in revenue, supporting 587 jobs, and yielding $4.8 million in state and local taxes.
In January 2022, Fayetteville hosted the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships, which drew an estimated 17,500 spectators, race participants, race officials and event staff and volunteers to the three-day event at Centennial Park. That event generated nearly $9.9 million alone, according to the center.
Other Fayetteville biking events in 2022 included the Square to Square ride, the Joe Martin Stage Race, the UCI Cyclocross World Cup, and the Highlands Gravel Classic, which served as a qualifier for a UCI Gravel World Championship. Other regional events included Big Sugar Gravel, the Arkansas Enduro Series and the Battle for Townsend Ridge.
As part of the study, the center surveyed residents to gauge their interest and participation of biking in 2022, and found that 63% of the area’s adults own at least one bicycle. Of those who rode in the past year, 72% reported riding at least three days per month, and 41% said they ride between three and nine days per month.