(March 14, 2016) - Over the last few years across the United States, numerous cities have worked to reclaim their streets for people instead of cars. Not only has cycling been shown to benefit the environment through reducing a population’s carbon footprint, but there is also a case that can be made for the positive impact that cycling has on local economies.
This is an idea that Armstrong students Portia Keene and Tori Dixon decided to run, or rather, ride with, as they began to research aspects of Savannah’s bicycling ecosystem.
“The goal is to develop better and more bicycling resources for the Savannah area,” says Keene who double majors in Business Economics and Health Science Administration. “My grandparents are both cyclists who used to ride through North Carolina, and now as a cyclist myself in Savannah, I have a passion for it as well as a drive to improve the economy.”
Keene, who started working with economics professor Dr. Mike Toma last August, took a special interest in the project, which was funded through a grant from Complete College Georgia. According to her, the infrastructure for an improved cycling environment in Savannah is already in place, it just needs some traction, which would end up benefitting the local economy immensely.
“Cycling in cities increases property values and brings increases to tourism with respect to cyclists who book hotels, eat at restaurants and spend money at attractions,” explains Keene. “When these things increase, jobs for locals increase, business revenue increases, and local government tax revenue increases as well.”
While the research speaks for itself, it’s a harder sell than one might think in order to get cities and their residents on board. That’s where Dixon, a Business Economics student, comes in.
“I’ve done a lot of market research on comparative cities and have been creating a presentation to present to stakeholders in Savannah,” says Dixon. “ I try to persuade them to get on board with cycling improvements.”
Savannah is full of beautiful scenery, pleasant year-round weather and is also known as a hot tourist destination. According to Dixon’s research, which works hand-in-hand with the impact studies reviewed by Keene, just a few very basic ideas —such as the creation of a network of bike trails and the addition of cycling-friendly regulations—could make a big impact here in Savannah.
“For Savannah, it’s an economic opportunity that is currently not being taken advantage of,” notes Dixon. “It already has everything it needs to be a really successful city in biking tourism and I think because of that, we need to explore it.”
Aside from the potential of being able to make a really powerful improvement to Savannah’s local economy, Keene and Dixon are also leveraging themselves for employment after graduation.
“You can know theory all day long, but employers want to see that you know how to apply that theory,” explains Dixon. “That’s what I’m learning to do through this research project.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, Keene feels empowered through being able to work on a project like this.
“Dr. Toma gives me a lot of freedom to conduct this research and as a result, I feel like I know the sort of expectations that would be placed on me out in the workforce,” she says. “This sort of experience has been invaluable.”