The VINE TRAIL Benefits The Economy


by Maureen Gaffney

If you are reading this, you are probably already a fan of the Napa Valley VINE TRAIL for any number of compelling reasons: the car-free ride to work or school, family time on the trail, the beauty of experiencing the Napa Valley by foot or by wheel. These are excellent arguments for the trail—the health benefits, the free and easy recreation, and the sense of community these engender. But there’s something else. Money. Cash. Loot. Bread. Dough.

Though it seems a bit crass to speak of our beloved Trail in this way, the economic benefits associated with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are real and compelling. Using the current IRS mileage rate, my B.C. (Before Covid) 15-mile commute to work in San Francisco cost $17.25 in gas, insurance, wear and tear, $7.80 in bridge toll, and $15 in parking (assuming no parking ticket). That’s $40 a day. And how much does my traffic angst cost? The very real cost of delay when there’s an accident?

And then there’s the cost of the actual vehicle itself. Like cars, the purchase price of a bicycle also varies wildly. On the internal combustion side, one can secure an $800 rolling bucket of bolts that moves down the road like a crab belching exhaust (my first, second and third cars…), or one can nab a new Ferrari Portofino for a song at only $215,000. On the two-wheeled side, one can find a trusty-if-not-very-sleek commute rig for $25 at a garage sale or bike swap. If you are more of a Ferrari-type cyclist, a Pinarello Dogma will set you back $13,000.

The above examples of the economic benefits of trails are all of the micro variety—the very real and personal impacts to our wallets associated with car ownership and transportation choices. Taking it up a notch to the community level, trail users have a very real positive benefit to local businesses. In Bentonville, Arkansas, where the city in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation has invested heavily in both on and off-street trail infrastructure, bicycling provided $137 million in economic benefits to Northwest Arkansas in 2017 (Walton Family Foundation press release, March 2018).

Examples abound regarding the positive economic benefits of trails—increased property values adjacent to trails, lower mental and physical health care costs in communities with robust trail networks, and the above-referenced cost of car vs. bike ownership.

When I think about saving $40 a day by riding my bike to work, economics doesn’t feel at all like a “dismal science.” It feels like the validation of a good choice. And it also feels like I’ve got an extra $40 to spend at a local eatery along the way. Or on a donation to the Napa Valley VINE TRAIL.