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Electric bicycle tourists enjoy discovering Marseille, France.
Electric bicycle tourists enjoy discovering Marseille, France.

The Rise of Bicycle Tourism

A 2012 European study concluded that bicycle tourism 'generates $57 billion in economic impacts annually.' Numbers like that are catching the attention of state and regional tourism authorities and spurring the growth of a new segment of the travel industry as revealed by these ten key indicators. Photo: bike tourists explore Marseille, France on electric bicycles.

Bicycle tourism in Scotland is estimated to be worth between £241 million and £362 million (or $385.6 million and $579.2 million) annually, according to a recent study, reports the Adventure Cycling Association or ACA.

In the United States, the state of Oregon found bike tourism’s impact to be $400 million. Michigan, home of the American automobile industry, found in the first phase of a 2014 study that bicycle tourism contributes $668 million annually "in economic benefits to Michigan's economy from employment, retail revenue, tourism expenditure, and increased health and productivity."

Other U.S. states are reaching similar conclusions: Arizona, $88 million; Montana $377 million, if the potential for multi-day bike tourism were fully exploited.

These surprising numbers reveal a little recognized - until now - phenomenon of bike tourism that is growing globally, sufficiently now to warrant government interest and support as revealed by the following 10 indicators as cited by the ACA:

(1) Bike tourism is now seen as as an emerging sector in global and American travel markets. The segment has grown sufficiently for the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) to conduct its first-ever global survey of some 200 bike tour operators. Further, for the first time, bike tourism was included in the New York Times Travel Show, the largest of its kind in North America. The industry also held its first national conference in San Diego late last year.

(2) More states and regions are beginning to recognized the economic impact and potential of bicycle tourism, as presented in the above study numbers, from the $57 billion across Europe to the $88 million in Arizona.

(3) The total miles/kilometers of Continental and National bike route networks in Europe and North America are growing. For example: the UK's National Cycle Network " grew to more than 14,000 miles [http://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/default/files/file_content_type/sustrans-ncn-report-2013.pdf] and saw user trips grow by 7% in 2013."

Adds the Adventure Cycling press release:

The extensive Euro-Velo long-distance cycle network has plans to add an entirely new route on the Rhone River and extensions of three other routes. The fast-growing U.S. Bicycle Route System now encompasses 6,790 miles in 15 states, with new routes up for approval this month in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Michigan. More than 40 states are planning, implementing and promoting U.S. Bicycle Routes.

(4) Country and regional bike networks are growing with the development of "moderate distance bike route networks tied to a region’s scenic, cultural, and historic assets." Japan is building a 360-mile (600 km) bike network connecting Nara and Kyoto. South Korea is building an off-road paved path system. In the USA, one of the most popular regional networks is the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route in central Idaho.

(5) Single-day and short tours proliferate. From New York to Atlanta, bike tours of American cities are mushrooming, ranging from a few hours to one and two-day tours.

(6) Self-guided tours are becoming popular as a lower-cost option that is seen as making the tours accessible to more people.

(7) U.S. federal and state governments are lending their support to the industry from Amtrak forming its first-ever bicycle task force to improve its services for traveling cyclists, to the National Park Service agreeing to work with the ACA to "promote more bike travel to and through its parks."

(8) The growth of bike share systems is introducing more people to the benefits of cycling. In the absence of bike share, tourists are also rent bikes from shops offering the service.

(9) The big North American cycling events continue to thrive, introducing hundreds of thousands of participants to the reality of cycling tourism, including classic events like Cycle Oregon, Ride the Rockies, Quebec's The Grand Tour, and close to my home here in Omaha, RAGBRAI and BRAN.

(10) Tourism-related cycling NGO's are "experiencing substantial growth," according to Adventure Cycling, which itself…

"…set new records for memberships, bike map units sold, tour participants, donations and advertising revenue – records which the organization attributes to the growing surge of interest in bike travel."

From ePEDALER's perspective this is a very encouraging trend, especially since our business model is to rental electric-assist bicycles to tourists, starting here in Omaha with a pilot program this coming Spring. It's our belief that by offering renters an eBike option, we can open up bike-based tourism to a much wider audience of potential riders who, for multiple personal reasons, might not otherwise make the choice to tour a great city like Omaha or the countryside of Iowa on a conventional bicycle.

"Don't Coast, America… Ride the Current!"

Posted By: Bill Moore [16-Jan-2015]

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