Over the past ten years, bicycling has gained a wave of popularity in the United States. It serves as exercise, a quick way to travel, and also as a source of leisurely fun. More and more communities are viewing bicycling amenities as an asset and taking the steps to make bicycle friendly environments. Municipalities making these improvements are seeing economic revitalization and community identity. These changes come about naturally through bike tourism as bikes can be used for cross-country journeys or locally around town, increasing tourist access.
Bicycle tourism is defined as a bicycle travel-related activity for the purpose of pleasure. Bicycling is the third most popular outdoor vacation activity in the U.S. due to the variety of vacation spots available. For example, bicycle tourism in Hilton Head, South Carolina is geared towards getting around the island whereas a bicycle trip through the Rocky Mountains would be much more labor intensive. Both of these types of tourism require different needs that help boost local economies. Location destinations like Hilton Head, require bike rental shops and safe roadways as many of their bicyclists are going from their hotel to the beach or from one store to another. These small trips boost the local economy and also minimize traffic congestion and roadway damage.
Vacations that are based around bicycle-based journeys generate even more revenue. According to a study conducted in 2013, the “Oregon Bike Travel Study”, bicyclists on long-distance, multi-day bicycling vacations spend between $100-$300 dollars a day. These costs include lodging, bike parts, and food. Often times these trips go through less visited areas, such as small towns, and can have a positive impact on business.
Overall, bicycle tourists tend to spend more money and cost cities less. Bicycle tourists frequently travel in groups or with family so provide several opportunities for sales. Bicycling also costs less than renting or driving a vehicle so tourists have more expendable income availible. Municipalities with bicycle tourism save money because they do not need as much parking allowing them to invest in other amenities. Creating bicycle tourist infrastructure also doubles in use as local residents can use it to travel as well. In addition, bicycle tourism creates jobs throughout the entire community ensuring a vibrant economy. Not only are construction jobs created to install bicycling infrastructure, but bicycle stores can be prosperous, and local stores can increase sales with an increased customer base.
“One factor repeatedly cited by studies is that
bicycling is an activity that occurs on a “human
scale” – that is, at a speed that allows the
cyclists to take in their surroundings and
interact with their environment. Within an
urban area, this means that cyclists will
frequently stop to shop, investigate, and/or
discover the area that they are in. Inevitably,
this leads to more money being spent within a community.”
Bicycle tourism is also good for the bicycle community as a whole. For example, someone who does not normally commute by bike may do so on vacation and want to continue commuting by bicycle when they return home. Increasing the number of cyclists on the road and throughout the area embeds bicycling culture in the community.
NJDOT has published more than 20 bicycle tour guides and this past summer added a new tour, Explore the Jersey Shore by Bicycle, which extends from Cape May to Sandy Hook. There are four tours that are accessible by mobile device or phone. These new tours will hopefully bring recreational and economic activity to shore communities.