Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Nearly 9,000 miles of official U.S. bike routes bringing tourism dollars to rural communities

Bike routes are an easy and cheap way to bring tourism dollars to rural communities, reports Nicholas Deshais for The Spokesman-Review. Deshais last month began a 416-trek across Idaho and Washington's U.S. Bicycle Route 10 (Spokesman-Review graphic) which is part of nearly 8,992 miles of official bike routes in 18 states—Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia, states Adventure Cycling Association. The proposed National Corridor Plan would create 50,000 miles of numbered bike routes in all 50 states. 

"An official bike route doesn’t require much," Deshais writes. "No bike lane, signs or even a substantial shoulder is needed, though all of these things are very desirable. The only real rule for an official bike route is that it must connect two or more states or a state and an international border or to another official route." The biggest hurdle is getting every jurisdiction along the route to approve the route. USBR 10 includes 18 cities and towns, seven counties and a handful of transportation districts.

Paula Reeves, a planner in the Washington State Department of Transportation's engineering policy and innovation division, said "that for every dollar spent on bike gear and equipment, an additional $4 is spent on trips and travel," Deshais writes. "A recent study done by Tacoma-based Earth Economics said "bicycle riding in general generated more than $3.1 billion in annual spending."

Saara Snow, travel initiative coordinator with the Missoula-based Adventure Cycling Association, told Deshais, "A lot of communities want bicycle tourism in their towns. Bicyclists tend to ride on rural roads, and because of that it brings a new type of tourism these communities don’t normally see. Cyclists spend more money than motorized tourists. That’s because they spend more time in the state, they spend more on lodging and food, and they do that in rural communities. Essentially, they have a greater impact on these smaller, rural towns.” (Proposed routes for the National Corridor Plan. For a larger version, click here)

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