(Minneapolis MN-) A recent University of Minnesota study funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation shows the economic significance of the bicycling industry and events in Minnesota, bicycling infrastructure use across the state, and the health benefits associated with bicycle commuting.

“MnDOT has long identified bicycling as an important part of the state’s multimodal transportation system,” said Tim Henkel, modal planning and program management assistant commissioner. “This first-ever study generated new information that will inform policy and program strategies on bicycling as we determine levels of future investment.”

The study shows that in 2014, the bicycling industry generated $778 million of economic activity, which includes $209 million of labor income and 5,519 jobs. Nearly 80 percent of that economic activity came from manufacturing and wholesale business.

Minnesota communities host more than 100 bicycle events annually and bring an estimated 50,212 visitors to the state. Trail rides, races, mountain bicycling events and bicycle tours generated $14.3 million of economic activity, which included $4.6 million in labor income and 150 jobs, the study found.

To estimate the use of bicycling infrastructure, researchers looked at the use of trails and other facilities to quantify demand for bicycling in the state. They found that between 87 million and 96 million bicycle trips are made annually for commuting, recreation and other purposes.

“These estimates will help state and local policy makers and transportation planners and engineers build a safe, sustainable transportation system that meets the needs of Minnesota residents in the 21st century,” said Henkel. “We also know that safer bicycling infrastructure and networks will lead to more people bicycling and bicycling trips.”

The study found that bicycle commuting in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area prevents 12 to 61 deaths per year, saving between $100 million and $500 million. Bicycle commuting lowers the risk of many diseases, but most significantly obesity, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.

“These study findings tell a compelling story for the positive effects of bicycling and provide direct evidence that supports the efforts to promote bicycling related industry, infrastructure, events and activities,” said Henkel.

The “Assessing the Economic Impact and Health Effects of Bicycling in Minnesota” study was funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation with research conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Tourism Center, School of Public Health, Extension and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.