Photo by Gregg Bleakney
Defining Bicycle Tourism's ImpactGregg Bleakney crosses into Argentina from Chile above Lago del Desierto at the southernmost section ofthe Ruta Austral, Patagonia, South America.
"Bicycle tourism” is a phrase you will soon hear a lot. Although the current trend is to talk about the economic benefits of bikes, the idea of bicycling as a tourism asset remains relatively uncharted territory, in part because “bicycle tourism” encompasses so many aspects of cycling.
A good working definition of bicycle tourism is “any travel-related activity, for the purpose of pleasure, which incorporates a bicycle.” It is broad, but purposefully so, because bicycle use is so varied. Bicycle tourism is everything from self-supported touring, organized rides like RAGBRAI, destination mountain biking, a rails-to-trails conversion, and events that draw outside visitors, like the Tour of California, North American Handmade Bicycle Show, and Tour de Fat.
Bicycle tourism reframes bicycling, moving it from just a “quality of life” issue for local residents, to a powerful economic asset. This is a big paradigm shift. In Oregon, the Scenic Bikeways program is creating a bike tourism trail, by designating cycling routes that entice people to visit, ride, play, and stay in different parts of the state. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll see a region market itself as “bike country” instead of “wine country.”
Russ Roca and Laura Crawford, aka The Path Less Pedaled, are championing bicycle tourism in rural areas. Find them online at pathlesspedaled.com