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Grow local revenue by attracting people to bicycle trails

Have easy access designated dedicated parking for trail users
Have easy access designated dedicated parking for trail users
Kathleen Story

Revenue from bicycle riders coming to an area for trails which are so appealing that the cyclists travel quite a distance has a significant economic impact on a locale. Businesses which meet bicyclists' needs must be available for a community to get the most benefit.

Average bicycle tourists are well-educated, upper-income older adults. Various bicyclist surveys have shown:

  • on North Carolina's Outer Banks 81 percent reported having a college degree; 78 percent having household incomes of $75,000 or more
  • in the Adirondacks responded their mean annual income was between $60,000 and $69,000
  • on the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania in 2008 83 percent said they were 35 years old or older.

Some of the ways an area can attract these cycling customers are:

  • make it easy for them to learn about and find services they need with things like "you are here" maps that display the location of services such as restrooms, bike shops, restaurants, lodging, laundry facilities, attractions and amenities
  • facilitate travel into and throughout the community by establishing well-designed bicycle trails and lanes and designated parking places for the vehicles at their starting and finishing points
  • enhance the appeal of the community assigning trail portions to groups or individuals responsible for regular trail maintenance and upkeep of plants along the trail
  • educate residents to be welcoming to them and greet them
  • post maps of bicycle friendly trails and lanes
  • display well marked signed routes with consistent signage along the route that lets cyclists track their progress and reinforces their sense of trail identity.
  • have numbered mileposts for emergency crews to be able to quickly reach cyclists who need help and for cyclists to report issues with trails
  • display a designated phone number and/or website where trail users can report trail issues and requests
  • keep up to date bulletin boards announcing regional events and year-round activities
  • advertise the rides, preferably four and seven days long riding between 30 and 50 miles per day, and include length, difficulty and type of route
  • have available easy-to-find water and public restrooms either clearly visible from trails or providing directions to them
  • offer and advertise lodging and dining options, ranging from campgrounds to high end hotels, fast foods and vegetarian heart-healthy to fine dining restaurants, snack bars to farm stands
  • advertise where bicycle attire is welcome in shops and restaurants
  • offer guided group tours supported by an organization or business which makes lodging and food arrangements for them
  • offer attractions like historic sites and museums, unusual shops, natural features, wineries and farms tours, art galleries and theaters, gyms and spas, and other forms of recreation like water slides and amusement parks
  • offer lockers for storing helmets, packs, and purchases
  • have businesses keep biking equipment to lend such as tire pumps, locks for the bike rack, basic repair tools
  • offer wi-fi and places to recharge cell phones
  • offer laundry and shower facilities
  • provide lists of websites where tourists can use their smart phones to look up more information about the area
  • have restaurants post menus outside where trail users can read them
  • establish bicycle ambassadors who watch for bicyclists unsure of where to go, having mechanical problems, or needing questions answered
  • maintain a quality business district because the better the downtown, the more money spent by visitors
  • establish a specific group responsible for community development and marketing. Form a coalition of existing entities such as the Chamber of Commerce, tourism promotion organization, downtown revitalization group, and economic development groups to work together and get local citizens and businesses on board.

Of greatest importance is making it easy for cyclists to learn about and find their way to services they need, to experience the uniqueness of the community and be delighted by what they have found. Surveys have shown that most trail users do not find the trails on websites but hear about them by word of mouth. If a community works together to create a bicycle friendly atmosphere, the news will spread.

Download a 28-page Bicyclists Bring Business guide [PDF] by American Trails. The slide show is of pictures taken on the outstanding Lagoon Trail in Farmington, Utah in July 2014.