What role can cycling play in Quebec’s economy?

Jean-François Rheault
March 9, 2023

The veloconomy, or the economic activities and spin-offs of the bicycle, is a subject that is gaining in popularity, especially in France. In October 2021, the French Prime Minister at the time, Jean Castex, entrusted a mission to deputy Guillaume Gouffier-Cha to draw up an inventory of the players, strengths and weaknesses of the bicycle industry in France: “Beyond a response to the challenges of ecological transition, public health and purchasing power, the development of the bicycle and its economic sector constitutes a promising challenge for our economy, which justifies consolidating the growth of its use”[1].

Cycling in Quebec reaches new heights

Everyone can see it, and many people are experiencing it: cycling has become more popular than ever in Quebec in recent years, both for transportation and for leisure, on roads and trails. Cycling is the third most popular physical activity in the province, the weekly leisure activity of 1.6 million Quebecers and the occasional means of transportation for 2.1 million people. This popularity has generated $565 million in spending on bicycles and equipment in 2020[2], and the growth of the sector appears to be limitless with the explosion of the electrically assisted bicycle. The province’s assets are numerous: half a dozen internationally recognized bicycle manufacturers (but no car manufacturers), the largest bicycle route in North America (the Route verte and its 5,300 km), a 5,500 km urban bicycle network, more than 20 cities with bike-sharing systems, and a bicycle fleet that is 10% larger than that of cars.

40 billion in France

France just renewed its Plan national vélo (2023-2028) in September 2022, after a first plan of 450 million euros launched in 2018 for 5 years. For 2023 alone, the government plans investments of 250 million euros. This political project is based in particular on the desire to see the “reindustrialization of the French bicycle sector”, and therefore to make the territory benefit from the economic value of this sector. This strong political choice is based on convincing data showing the colossal economic benefits of cycling, whether for industry, retail, tourism or urban logistics.

A study conducted in 2020[3] measured that the “core” bicycle economy in France – manufacturing, sales, repair, design and construction of bicycle facilities – is worth 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) annually, and represents 13,500 jobs. If we add bicycle tourism and bicycle logistics (delivery), the economic impact reaches a total of 8.2 billion euros ($11 billion), while consolidating 78,000 jobs. Finally, if we take into account all the positive externalities linked to cycling, particularly in terms of health, the cycling sector contributes 30 billion euros ($40 billion) to national wealth every year. To put this in perspective, this is equivalent to twice the annual budget of Quebec’s Ministry of Education, which is the second largest expenditure in the province’s economy[4].

What about Quebec?

Despite its unparalleled popularity in Canada and North America, cycling in Quebec does not yet seem to be taken seriously enough by the government to be the subject of a study on its weight on the national economy. In other words, we don’t know how much the popular bicycle industry collectively contributes to Quebecers each year. At the same time, the many foreign examples (France, Germany, New York, Toronto, Copenhagen, Portland, London, etc.) all point in the same direction: cycling has enormous direct and indirect economic benefits, and this for relatively minimal investments compared to other sectors.

At a time when economic forecasts are uncertain, and political orientations and infrastructure projects do not always seem to be aligned with current climate imperatives, investments in active transportation – including cycling – appear more than ever to be a simple – and economically beneficial – solution to complex problems. For this reason, on the eve of the Quebec government’s 2023 budget, we call on the government to launch a research project on the “veloconomy” in order to have a precise and updated portrait of its impact on the national economy.


[1] Guillaume Gouffier-Cha, Filière économique du vélo. Report. Mission sur la filière écononique du vélo en France, January 2022: https://igedd.documentation.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/documents/Affaires-0012572/014115-01_rapport-publie.pdf;jsessionid=C9775605A7A5E81C5F4F0AA195C5E815

[2] État du vélo au Québec 2020 : https://www.velo.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/vq-edv2020-fr.pdf

[3] Impact économique et potentiel de développement des usages du vélo en France en 2020 ; ; https://librairie.ademe.fr/mobilite-et-transport/332-impact-economique-et-potentiel-de-developpement-des-usages-du-velo-en-france-en-2020.html

[4] http://www.budget.finances.gouv.qc.ca/budget/2022-2023/documents/Budget2223_PlanBudgetaire.pdf#page=38