bike lanes, route maps and other cycling infrastructure starting to
proliferate throughout the county might seem a boon to resident
cyclists, a piece of the path to physical fitness. But
they’re more than that. For local businesses and tourism officials,
they are a path to fiscal fitness — because bike tourism is big
business, a great way to bring new visitors and residents to the area to
spend time and money. Bike tourism appeals to multiple audiences:
Those who come for the touring, looking for a multiday ride in an
area welcoming to two-wheeled visitors, or for a specific bicycling
event, which draws visitors much like sporting events.
Those who make biking part of their daily life and who look for
communities that welcome riders on its streets and paths, with an
extensive effort to make getting around by bike as easy as jumping into
your car for errands.
Those who may not have been on a bike since childhood, but in making
vacation or retirement plans are attracted to the promise of a safe
opportunity to reclaim this healthy lifestyle.
economic impact of the first is clear, identified by visitors counted
and money spent (in the millions and billions, by the way) all tied to
specific activities. The fiscal benefits from the latter, however, are
far more significant when investment in cycling infrastructure becomes
more than just a dollar figure, but an investment in quality of life —
with visitors attracted and residents kept because of a lifestyle that
more and varied people find attractive.
to attract a young, educated workforce? They look for transportation
choices that aren’t limited only to cars. Looking to bring in more
European travelers? They’re used to biking being a part of their daily
life and to communities that make bikes an integral element of
transportation. Targeting those who want to make healthy living a
priority? They seek out communities that make fitness easy and
accessible, that recognize that quality of life includes health.
at any list of great places to live and notice how many bike-friendly
cities pop up there: Portland, Minneapolis, Boulder, Madison. Look at
cities that are striving to compete for “creative class” workers, and
see how many of them are also investing heavily in bike infrastructure:
New York, Chicago, Washington, Memphis.
look around at Southwest Florida, with its temperate winters and flat
terrain — and a growing network of bike/ped infrastructure that’s
beginning to connect communities in a safe and sensible way.
For tourism, it would be another asset to help sell this area.
businesses, more people means more potential customers, moving by your
shops at a pace that lets them see what your business really has to
More information • The Outer Banks of North Carolina realize a $60 million to $70
million economic benefit, each year, from a one-time investment of $6.7
million in a 100-mile-long system of bike trails. More than half of the
680,000 annual visitors say the availability of safe bicycle facilities
strongly influences their decision to return. • A 2011 analysis
found Wisconsin’s bicycle tourism contributes $1.5 billion to the state
economy with $535 million of that coming from out-of-state visitors,
many of whom return year after year specifically to enjoy the state’s
“Gold Level” cycling facilities.