Cycling

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Cycling Tourism Rolling Right Along

16 Nov, 2016

By: Michael Popke

More New Yorkers are riding bicycles. That’s the word from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which issued a report in late October indicating that bike use increased significantly among both male and female adults and high school students, as well as across racial and ethnic groups and in low- and high-income neighborhoods, between 2007 and 2014.

“Cycling is not only a great mode of transportation in New York City, it’s also a way to increase physical activity and lower the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic diseases,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement.

While that is certainly true, bicycle tourism is picking up speed, too.

The 2016 National Bicycle Tourism Conference, sponsored by the Bicycle Tour Network in St. Pete Beach, Florida, brought together professionals that coordinate bicycle events and festivals, bicycle tour operators, tourism officials, destination marketers, and advocates and enthusiasts to discuss best practices and the latest trends.

“When the conference was first held, the purpose was to bring together just multi-day bicycle tour event directors to share knowledge and help others who had an interest in starting events,” write T.J. Juskiewicz, president of the Bicycle Tour Network and director of the annual RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) event, in this year’s conference program. “That focus remains today, but the Bicycle Tour Network has broadened the scope to include single day and weekend recreational bicycle events and festivals, tour operators and travel and tourism officials that highlight their cycling opportunities.”

The Bicycle Tour Network includes more than 100 organizations that direct nearly 350 bicycle rides and tours across North America.

Cycling tourism has seen recent boosts in cities across the United States.

In Virginia’s central Shenandoah Valley, bicycle tourism resulted in a total economic impact of $13.6 million in 2015 and supported 184 jobs, according to the recent “Bicycling in the Central Shenandoah Valley Economic Impact Analysis,” which was conducted by the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission and several regional partners. Visitor spending created a direct economic impact of approximately $8.6 million that supported 144 jobs, the report said, and 71 percent of visitors stayed overnight at least once during their journey. 

“The results of this study show just how much bicycle tourism already contributes to the local economy and provide valuable information for evaluating and exploring new ways to showcase our bicycle-friendly amenities to a larger audience and grow this sector into the future,” Brenda Black, director of Harrisonburg Tourism and Visitor Services, said in a statement.

Additional highlights of the report reveal that most visiting cyclists were between the ages of 41 and 60 and considered themselves “serious riders.”

Meanwhile, in Cameron County, Texas, city commissioners are working on projects to promote the area’s bike trails and kayak routes to attract what they call “active tourism.” That includes development of a biking and hiking trail across parts of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Harlingen. “I think it’s a phenomenal prospect,” Gene McCullough, an attorney who is part of the local cycling boom, told The Brownsville Herald. “It’s exciting — bike trails, kayaking trails. I think it has a lot to offer for the active lifestyle, and it’s the right fit for our climate. You can do almost anything outside here.”

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