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  1. #1
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    Bicycle Touring as Economic Development

    Something to think about while on tour.



    R
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    Great interview with a wonderful person....Enlightening!

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    Senior Member JeanSeb's Avatar
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    Interesting. Thanks for posting.

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    Saw this a while back and thought about it during my tour in late June/early July when we stayed at the free, cyclist campground in Twin Bridges, MT. Between lunch out, groceries and wine for dinner, doing laundry, breakfast and coffee out and sandwiches and snacks for the next day's ride, the two of us spent over $100. And that did not include the $20 we left as a donation.

    While we were there, the man who takes care of place stopped by to check up on things and to empty the "iron ranger." He told us how some of the town fathers were not behind the place because they feel that cyclists don't spend money.

    We weren't the only ones who stayed there that night. There was a solo cyclist and a couple from Germany. I know the solo rider had dinner at a restaurant in town and got a few takeout beers from the grocery store. I believe the German couple bought groceries, too.

    Next to the bike camp is a small motorists rest stop. At one point in the afternoon, a man in a car parked, walked over to the bike camp, took a shower, jumped back in his car and drive off. I wonder if he spent any money in town. Her certainly did not leave a donation.

    I wish I had kept a record of how much money we spent out on the road. I know if was a lot for 9 days. And virtually all of it was spent at local, independent businesses. Other than a CVS Pharmacy and two Safeway grocery stores, I cannot think of one chain business we patronized while out on the road.

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    I volunteered for a hiking trail development project where one of the main focuses (foci?) was getting local business owners involved because of the amount of money people walking through the towns would make. If you have a place people want to travel through, they will bring money with them, whether it's broke backpackers just buying groceries or old people who pay to have their luggage transferred and for B&B rooms.

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    Yes, the theory and personal, anecdotal observation is fine, and it may work for marginal towns that are not on mainstream tourist highways. But there are many hurdles involved.

    I know all the principles of this. I worked in tourism for four years, and worked closely with a state government on encouraging promotion of bicycles to that island destination. The idea was that cyclists spent longer on the island than normal tourists, their daily spend was quite good (but still much less than that for other tourists), and they might visit towns and destinations that weren't on the normal tourist routes (highly unlikely as the routes by the cyclsits usually mimicked those of car and bus travellers).

    The reality is... unless a cyclist is going to stay at motels or other non-camping accommodation each night (ie, as a credit card touring cycloist), then the spend that Indyfabz detailed would be taken up in just one room-night booking by a tourist travelling by just about any other means. Add on to that gas refills, restaurant and drink purchases, and so on, and the spend certainly starts to build in favour of other forms of travel.

    Machka and I did our Vancouver Island trip as a credit card one, with three nights at motels and one night staying with friends. We ate out locally every night. We could have halved or quartered our costs by free-camping and preparing our own food, and the financial gain to the island would have been much, much less.

    It certainly might be argued that towns along a designated bike route off the heavy tourist track will benefit from a cyclist's commercial activity. Or will they?

    There is a 175km rail-trail being built in my region. People in one town are almost delirious with excitement about the commercial opportunities they think it will bring, because the initial feasibility study said it would bring them.

    Sadly, I think the trail will become a $15 million white elephant worth virtually nothing in tourist dollars because it won't be sealed, won't be adequately maintained, will be shared with horses, has already achieved a high level of antagonism among local landholders, doesn't lead to really interesting tourist features, and doesn't have an adequate return transport service or easy access to transport from the destination. There's also a perfectly adequate highway, much of it with shoulders, that parellels the trail; if the cyclists aren't already heading into town, the trail is unlikely to bring them.

    And really, let's face it, cyclists in general are a pretty mean lot and are always trying to save a buck here and there. Just read the many, many threads here about people wanting to do a tour on a next-to-nothing budget by stealth camping and cooking beans and rice for every meal.

    Having said all that, the towns along the ACA routes may tell a different story because of the volume of cycle-tourists that traverse them. But somehow, I suspect not and that whatever tourist dollars they make are well supplemented by other motorised groups of travellers.
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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Rowan brings up many good points. The only one I would pick on would be the gas. From what I have read only about 10% of the cost of a gallon of gasoline stays in the local community. So you have someone buy $40usd worth of gas only $4 of that stays, they might buy another $6 worth of junk food, and if the store is one of the big chain stores only about 1/3 of that will stay in the local community. I honestly believe that if a town is on a major cycling route and they go out of their way to welcome cyclists it can pay off especially for the locally owned businesses. The big chain stores live on high volume and low profits, the small independently owned not so much.

    I travel extensively for work, when I get somewhere I always try to search out and shop the locally owned businesses in hopes of helping keeping them around. I don't like the proliferation of big box stores and don't want to only have one choice of a place to shop.

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    It depends on the destination. You can't just build a bike path through Kansas and expect it to help the local economy beyond hiring people to build it. There already has to be something to attract people. If there is, however, it can be a very good idea.

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    Sadly, I think the trail will become a $15 million white elephant worth virtually nothing in tourist dollars because it won't be sealed, won't be adequately maintained, will be shared with horses, has already achieved a high level of antagonism among local landholders, doesn't lead to really interesting tourist features, and doesn't have an adequate return transport service or easy access to transport from the destination. There's also a perfectly adequate highway, much of it with shoulders, that parellels the trail; if the cyclists aren't already heading into town, the trail is unlikely to bring them.
    I don't know about that. The Kettle Valley/Trans Canada trail attracts many group tourists and day riders. Of course maybe you are right about your particular trail, the KVR/Columbia Western has some great views associated with it. You are concerned about HORSES?? ATV's I can understand but part of the TCT allows ATV's and though it was annoying it was still ok to ride with them. Horses are fine with me just a few dung piles to avoid occasionally, keeps you awake lol.

    I agree though, tourist places want people with disposable income, ie. Retired people. Though, on the KVR I met quite a few older people that enjoyed riding parts of it. You don't meet too many people who ride for hundreds of KM's and spend lots of money, most of the longer distance riders I saw doing the whole thing were solo men.

    I think though your trail could attract tour companies, for instance the KVR has a tour company from Germany that runs the entire thing once a month 20 or so people a time, and there are quite a few local tour companies that run supported tours.

    You will see many, many more people in my area touring on a rail trail than you will on a highway, as people find it feels more safe.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Yes, the theory and personal, anecdotal observation is fine, and it may work for marginal towns that are not on mainstream tourist highways. But there are many hurdles involved.

    I know all the principles of this. I worked in tourism for four years, and worked closely with a state government on encouraging promotion of bicycles to that island destination. The idea was that cyclists spent longer on the island than normal tourists, their daily spend was quite good (but still much less than that for other tourists), and they might visit towns and destinations that weren't on the normal tourist routes (highly unlikely as the routes by the cyclsits usually mimicked those of car and bus travellers).

    The reality is... unless a cyclist is going to stay at motels or other non-camping accommodation each night (ie, as a credit card touring cycloist), then the spend that Indyfabz detailed would be taken up in just one room-night booking by a tourist travelling by just about any other means. Add on to that gas refills, restaurant and drink purchases, and so on, and the spend certainly starts to build in favour of other forms of travel.

    Machka and I did our Vancouver Island trip as a credit card one, with three nights at motels and one night staying with friends. We ate out locally every night. We could have halved or quartered our costs by free-camping and preparing our own food, and the financial gain to the island would have been much, much less.

    It certainly might be argued that towns along a designated bike route off the heavy tourist track will benefit from a cyclist's commercial activity. Or will they?

    There is a 175km rail-trail being built in my region. People in one town are almost delirious with excitement about the commercial opportunities they think it will bring, because the initial feasibility study said it would bring them.

    Sadly, I think the trail will become a $15 million white elephant worth virtually nothing in tourist dollars because it won't be sealed, won't be adequately maintained, will be shared with horses, has already achieved a high level of antagonism among local landholders, doesn't lead to really interesting tourist features, and doesn't have an adequate return transport service or easy access to transport from the destination. There's also a perfectly adequate highway, much of it with shoulders, that parellels the trail; if the cyclists aren't already heading into town, the trail is unlikely to bring them.

    And really, let's face it, cyclists in general are a pretty mean lot and are always trying to save a buck here and there. Just read the many, many threads here about people wanting to do a tour on a next-to-nothing budget by stealth camping and cooking beans and rice for every meal.

    Having said all that, the towns along the ACA routes may tell a different story because of the volume of cycle-tourists that traverse them. But somehow, I suspect not and that whatever tourist dollars they make are well supplemented by other motorised groups of travellers.
    Good points, Rowan.

    One thing I would point out is that there is a large untapped source of potential bicycle tourists in the road biking community. Lots of people my age (I'm 46) who have been cycling for years and would probably like to combine travel with cycling, but might not be interested in doing it fully loaded. As it stands now, when someone begins investigating the opportunity for bike touring, they generally find information at either end of the spectrum - fully loaded and full service outfitters. So, it seems like there might be a potential market for folks who want to travel for a few weeks, carry a minimal amount of gear, and have the same accommodation and dining experiences they normally do on vacation. Those are the type of bike tourists that would be more economically appealing to these communities and the investments they are trying/wanting/needing to justify.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    The reality is... unless a cyclist is going to stay at motels or other non-camping accommodation each night (ie, as a credit card touring cycloist), then the spend that Indyfabz detailed would be taken up in just one room-night booking by a tourist travelling by just about any other means. Add on to that gas refills, restaurant and drink purchases, and so on, and the spend certainly starts to build in favour of other forms of travel.
    That misses the point that the only reason we were there--the only reason the places got our money--was because we were on a bicycle tour. And had the bike camp not been there, we very well may have stayed in a different town. The town fathers who are not fully behind the Twin Bridges bike camp look at it from a "who spends more" perspective instead of a "who spends" perspective. Dillion, about 30 miles away, has a lot more to see and do that Twin Bridges. The bike camp brings people to town that would otherwise pass through without much thought. Whether 10 cyclists or 1000 cyclists spend money in a town in any given year, it's still money that would not have been spent taken in but for people cycling. Interestingly, we did not end up in Twin Bridges because we were following AC's Trans Am route. We entered town from an entirely different direction and left in an entirely different direction.

    And as for being cheap, I will leave that to others. During our 9 day trip, we got rooms three nights. One was planned and two were unexpected. We ate dinner out four nights. We ate breakfast out every morning except one. For lunch, we either bought food to take with us or ate at restaurants. We even got a room before flying home after the trip. Again, this was all money that was spent solely because we were on a bike tour. I am pretty sure the merchants, especially the waitresses that got at least 20% tips, are happy we patronized their businesses.

  12. #12
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    I watched this video twice and a couple of things struck me.

    This thing about local businesses putting little "bike friendly" signs in the window I thought was a bit 'naff' and pretty meaningless.

    She mentioned that she had in the past not identified herself as an American presumably when abroad and I thought this was a bit sad. You shouldn't be reticent about identifying your nationality. She used the expression "super-proud to be an American". I don't feel super-proud of being Irish but I'd never deny my nationality.

    I've never toured in America but I have visited there so can't really comment in detail.

    I normally tour in France and the things that attract me to tour there are the ready availability of good cheap (often run by the municipality) campsites, good quality secondary roads with light traffic volumes and the fact that every village has a public W.C.

    The main reason IMO that cycle touring is of benifit to the rural economy is that it tends to reach out into areas that don't normally get a lot of motorised tourism as cyclists often seek out areas with low traffic volumes and see that as an attraction in itself.

    I can understand how cost-benefit analysis comes in when trying to get support for investment in infrastructure but I find it all a bit off-putting.

    Being 'bike-friendly' should be a state of mind not part of some business plan.
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    Inbdyfabz, I take your points, and didn't mean to make it sound like I was denigrating how you went about your cycle touring.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    I watched this video twice and a couple of things struck me.

    This thing about local businesses putting little "bike friendly" signs in the window I thought was a bit 'naff' and pretty meaningless.

    She mentioned that she had in the past not identified herself as an American presumably when abroad and I thought this was a bit sad. You shouldn't be reticent about identifying your nationality. She used the expression "super-proud to be an American". I don't feel super-proud of being Irish but I'd never deny my nationality.

    I've never toured in America but I have visited there so can't really comment in detail.

    I normally tour in France and the things that attract me to tour there are the ready availability of good cheap (often run by the municipality) campsites, good quality secondary roads with light traffic volumes and the fact that every village has a public W.C.

    The main reason IMO that cycle touring is of benifit to the rural economy is that it tends to reach out into areas that don't normally get a lot of motorised tourism as cyclists often seek out areas with low traffic volumes and see that as an attraction in itself.

    I can understand how cost-benefit analysis comes in when trying to get support for investment in infrastructure but I find it all a bit off-putting.

    Being 'bike-friendly' should be a state of mind not part of some business plan.
    The points you make apart from the video go right to the heart of the issues.

    The simple fact of the matter 8s that touring cyclists generally want to go the same places as people who take other modes of transport. Otherwise, there would be a large numbers of them wandering aimlessly through the Prairies. That means they often was a route that is almost as direct, if not as direct, as those taken by their car-driving cousins, they want to be safe about it, and they don't want to end up miles away from a destination because someone has confused cycle tourism with recreational riding.

    If communities are serious about attracting cyclists, they need to go back to the fundamentals -- provide facilities that improve cycling amenity, such as good quality, swept shoulders; adequate, consistent and meaningful signage for bike routes when needed (such as leading riders on to quieter roads that parallel major highways); having adequate bike parking within town and city commercial districts; identifying where bike shops are; and so on.

    Quite often, these things can be developed for little additional cost in parallel with other tourist facilities and promotions.

    One of the best networks I have seen is the Oeverland Route in the Netherlands for its consistent signage and quality of the various paths. However, it still had its flaws, including missing signage (lack of maintenance) and the fact that the routes had longish distances between towns that could be considered refuelling stops or accommodation points.

    Another really good route was through the Flanders battle fields of World War One. An indication of how seriously the local bike community takes it responsibility there is that we met a couple pulling a trailer with their child checking the route for signage and other issues. They were volunteers, were having a great day out, and were keen to ensure visitors enjoyed their time there.

    Of course, that does raise the salient point of just how involved in cycle tourism do locals want to get.

    Another area of cycle tourism that irritates me a little are the big charity or annual challenge rides. There is one here that is conducted by a bicycle organisation, and its prime aim annually is to raise money for that organisation. It attracts up to 8000 riders, and they move from town to town after 60 to 80km of riding each day.

    Now you'd think that would be of great commercial benefit to the towns involved. Well, if you own a pub, maybe. But the food is brought in from outside, not sourced locally, the staffing is almost entirely brought in with a few local token volunteers, and the accommodation comprises tents on local sports grounds with a minor donation to the club for its trouble.

    The hidden cost is in the clean-up afterwards by the local council, and the inconvenience to locals who then take their frustrations out on cyclists like me for the rest of the year.

    Perhaps the intention of these types of events is to encourage cyclists to come back and ride the region again... but the majority simply don't.

    I contrast all this with a major motor sport event I was involved in for classic, vintage and veteran cars. The man behind the event was insistent on ensuring the communities go their money's worth from the event, with local service clubs doing the catering for morning, lunch and afternoon stops, and competitors and their crews staying in hotel/motel/cabin accommodation, and gas stations getting their big share of business. There was heavy promotion of each area in the media, and it got to a point where communities were very anxious if they thought the route was going to be taken away from them.

    The hidden benefit was that drivers and their families often did return to re-drive the roads at some later date because they enjoyed them so much.

    The figures are a bit dated now because my involvement was 20 years ago, but the state government helped support the event to the tune of around $500,000 a year in cash and kind, and the return on that investment was estimated at $20 million to local businesses and in national and international tourism promotion.

    Then,of course, the classic example of a huge cycle tourism event is the Tour de France. Now that is what all other cycle tourism events should be measured by in terms of cost-benefit ratios.

    Oops. Rambling again But I hope you get my point(s) that unless there is a serious long-term commitment to create that "state of mind" Caretaker refers to, cycling advocats are just peeing in the wind.
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  14. #14
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    Rowan, good points again. I would caution comparing anything cycling related in the US to The Netherlands where cycling is already a prominent part of the national culture. Simply put, they "get" cycling on a level that the average American doesn't and probably never will.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aquakitty View Post
    I don't know about that. The Kettle Valley/Trans Canada trail attracts many group tourists and day riders. Of course maybe you are right about your particular trail, the KVR/Columbia Western has some great views associated with it.
    I think though your trail could attract tour companies, for instance the KVR has a tour company from Germany that runs the entire thing once a month 20 or so people a time, and there are quite a few local tour companies that run supported tours.

    You will see many, many more people in my area touring on a rail trail than you will on a highway, as people find it feels more safe.
    There's no comparison between the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and our rail trail. Our rail trail goes through pleasant enough countryside (rolling hills and pastureland) but there's really nothing in the way of dramatic scenery, tourist attractions, etc. etc. It doesn't even go through or to the two major tourist attractions in this shire. Plus it would be next to impossible to ride with a road bicycle or non-mtn bike touring bicycle because of the surface they've opted to use.

    It would take a very rich person with money to burn, looking for a tax write-off opportunity, to spruce up the places along the trail to something tourist worthy before it would become a destination or a tourist attraction in itself.

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    "I can understand how cost-benefit analysis comes in when trying to get support for investment in infrastructure but I find it all a bit off-putting"

    IN most places in NA investment in cycle touring would be insane. There are so few cycle tourists on the ground that any plan that looks like it might attract cycle tourists probably has some underlying flaw. I identified with what Caretaker said, I just want to go there and not have problems riding existing roads. I am not looking for some large infrastructure, just stop making life miserable for cyclists. Real cyclists for the most part want to be allowed to ride existing roads, stuff like soft paving on shoulders is what drives me crazy. Looks like ashphalt, but turns out not to have been packed, then you wonder how far out you have to ride to hit something solid.

  17. #17
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    Thanks, russ.

    some great avenues to be explored on the basis of that ladies' typology of cyclotourist.

    building a bicycle friendly state, with a robust bicycle route system and well planned for routes could steer riders (and people that might want to bike on vacation instead of drive everywhere in their destination town) and tourists to a region.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  18. #18
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    speaking to the topic heading . As usual.. location, location, location..
    Popular routes , like the Danube river shore route, have a string of properties
    with someplace to stay and eat , from Passau, D, to Vienna , A,

    including small river crossing boats to swap shores, with your bike and gear,
    then a cruise ship that operates as a tourist trip itself
    as well as ferry cyclists back to their starting point, up river..

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