October 30, 2011
Bike Trail Proximity And Transportation Policy

Julie Irwin Zimmerman in The Atlantic looks at evidence for high value which home buyers place on bike trail proximity.

The research, by planning professor Rainer vom Hofe and economics professor Olivier Parent, looked at houses along a 12-mile stretch of the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a former rail line that cuts across the northeastern portion of Cincinnati. The pair found that home buyers were willing to pay a premium of $9,000 to be within 1,000 feet of access to the trail.

It so happens I've spent a lot of time in Google Maps in one example city with a good few mile long bike trail comparing commute times by car, bike, and mass transit. If you haven't ever done this before try choosing starting and ending locations between housing and business offices in a city that offers at least car and mass transit options or car and isolated bike trail options. Here are some web pages with some urban bike trails to consider for comparisons in Google Maps. I'll be curious to hear any observations you come up with if you try this.

I chose office destinations and home locations that would put one near a bike trail at both ends. For people whose commute could be done mostly via a bike trail biking took much less time than taking a bus (said bus stopping at red lights and bus stops that don't stop bikes on a trail). Biking took about twice the amount of time of driving but mass transit was near double the biking time. Time walking to a bus stop, waiting for the bus, having the bus take a non-direct route, and stops along the way makes busing slower. Plus, you can only go when the bus goes. Biking seems like a much more attractive alternative to the car in areas where trails make bikes feasible. More bike and pedestrian overpasses and underpasses and trails would make biking and walking more feasible.

Now, if your drive doesn't involve much in the way of surface streets with stop lights and your local highway is not slow at rush hour then cars are going to offer a much bigger time advantage. Also, a bus in a HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane from a more distant starting point will beat a bike. But in the right locations bikes offer time advantages over mass transit and exercise and cost advantages over cars. Plus, bikes are like cars in that you can decide when to start your trip rather than be at the mercy of bus schedules.

Given trends in oil production a substantial improvement in the usability of bikes via trails isolated from surface car traffic will offer bigger advantages in the future.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 October 30 10:28 AM  Energy Transportation

bbartlog said at October 30, 2011 4:12 PM:

My address is, in fact, on a bike trail (on Stavich Bike Trail, which runs from western PA to eastern OH). Can't say as I feel a boost to the property value, though. Maybe the twenty trains that go by every day on the railroad which runs right along the bike path have something to do with that :-). Also, a bike trail commute would in my case require that my job be in one of several small rust-belt towns... the bike trail in question just doesn't fit in with the logic you've laid out.

terry O. said at October 30, 2011 5:13 PM:

The Little Miami bike trail runs alongside the Little Miami. I know the area well. The river views most likely explain the real estate price premium.

Terry O. said at October 30, 2011 5:16 PM:

The Little Miami bike trail runs alongside the Little Miami. I know the area well. The river views most likely explain the real estate price premium.

Kai Jones said at October 31, 2011 8:59 AM:

Bike trails are better than biking on the roads--but with the boomers retiring and slowly degenerating physically, won't there be pressure for more accessible transit?

JC said at November 1, 2011 6:48 PM:

I live in Houston, some 3/8 of a mile from a bike trail. The trail is unusable, due to poor construction and maintenance. There are 6 inch wide cracks a good four inches deep in the pavement that extend for literally hundreds of yards at a stretch. No matter, though, as they are "recreational" trails that don't go anywhere.

So I'm a combat cyclist. I ride hard, I ride fast, and I ride with the traffic. The time estimates are realistic, but only if one has a job which allows "hot and sweaty" as part of the dress code.(This is a time where a gym membership comes in handy - for the showers).

Another facet in Houston is the fact that the abysmal bus service (all the money is tied up in rail projects, see?) has seen fit to attach bike racks to the fronts of buses, allowing the cyclist to hitchhike to some extent through some of the areas of worst cycle-hostility. t

Norm said at November 2, 2011 2:39 AM:

Except in the winter.

BC said at November 3, 2011 10:35 AM:

"The river views most likely explain the real estate price premium."

Read the report. They measured distance from trail access points, not just the trail. And in a wooded riparian area, only a few homes will have a river view.

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