I recently attended a presentation by the Greenville Spinners to the SCDOT Commission. This wasn’t just any presentation. Through a special invite from SCDOT Commission Chair and District 4 Commission Representative Johnny Edwards, the Greenville Spinners president Steve Baker spoke about the economic impact of bicycling in the upstate. And it was a very different presentation than the Commission typically heard. On a regular basis, they hear the full gamet of headaches, usually ranging from the latest legislative updates from the the SCDOT Government Relations Officer to discussions of why a $26 million wall is required by federal regulations. Frankly, these guys probably needed a breathe of fresh air. They’re already tired of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition’s campaigns for more bike/ped infrastructure investments, so a new approach was in order.
When Steve walked in with John Algary, also a Spinners member, to discuss the many awesome reasons why bicycling is so good for the upstate’s economy, they listened. Intently. Steve talked about the $50 million infused into the state’s economy each year simply from so many bike-related events and bike retail businesses, while $20 million of that goes directly to the upstate. In addition, bike tourism, from not just the Swamp Rabbit Trail, generates a lot more revenue from adjacent new development, hospitality businesses, and general recreational travel. He explained in lucid detail how generating more of that private revenue from bike tourism, recreation, and events, in turn infuses more money into the tax base. Then when that extra tax money is re-invested into the infrastructure for even better quality of life in the upstate, then new businesses come into the area. And when new businesses come into the area, as has clearly occurred in the upstate, the tax base is infused again. He explained how bicycling in the upstate always has a positive impact on the economy in generating both private and public revenue.
At the end of the presentation, District 7 Commissioner Mike Whooten asked how this could work in Myrtle Beach, and we followed up. I’m so glad we had a chance to attend this presentation, and to assist the Spinners in developing it. They did a terrific job. At the end of the Commission meeting, I talked with Secretary St. Onge, and we’ll continue the discussion with him directly, and soon, to express the broader spectrum of bicyclists throughout SC, who they are, and what they do for and need from our state.