10 Tips to Become a Bicycle Travel Destination. Add Your Ideas and Win!

May 14, 2015

Cyclists visiting the Bicycle Barn in Methow Valley Washington

We’ve seen an increasing number of communities calling us up and asking, “How can our town serve adventure cyclists? What can we do to make them feel welcome enough to hang around and maybe even stay the night?” Some of this interest is due the increasing knowledge of the economic benefits bicycle tourists bring and some of it has to do with the fact that cyclists are just about the perfect visitors for small to medium-sized communities that don’t otherwise see many tourists. Whatever the reason, we’re glad to see this rising interest and are happy to provide some ideas for how towns can transition from being just another refueling stop to a becoming a true bike travel destination.

We’d also like to invite you to weigh in. What are we missing from the list? What have you experienced on one of your trips that really made a certain community memorable? Tell us what and why in the comment section below and you’ll have the chance to win a goodie bag of U.S. Bicycle Route products.

Bicycle Camp in Twin Bridges, Montana

A Little Goes a Long Way

Becoming bicycle-friendly is a growing national movement instituted at the local level. Since January, we have spoken to tourism and economic development officials and community members from Joplin, Missouri; Mobile Bay, Alabama; and Klamath, California. We've also seen a huge boom of interest in many small, rural towns in Montana, several of which have hosted local or regional bicycle forums and trail conferences. In each place, we've seen that a little can go a long way.

Here are the top 10 things you can offer cyclists to make your community or business bicycle travel friendly:

  1. Access to water
  2. Secure and safe bike parking
  3. Charging station for mobile devices and free Wi-Fi
  4. Bike lanes or paths through town and signs showing the way
  5. Covered pavilion or simple shelter for cyclists to rest, eat, or camp
  6. Message boards for cyclists to leave notes for each other and/or a service binder for local businesses to post ways they cater to cyclists 
  7. Bicycle repair and refueling supplies available for purchase, such as repair kits, tubes, spokes, bike tools, energy bars, and drinks 
  8. Bicycle maintenance tools such as a bike stand, a floor pump and tools for making repairs
  9. A website to provide information about the bicycle friendly things that your community/business offers
  10. Low-cost hotel, hostel, or camping available within walking distance of cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, service stations, and/or other services.

Not everything on this list needs to be in place. As a town, visitor center, hotel or business, think about what makes the most sense and what is easy to implement. For the more expensive items, such as the pavilion or building, you might need to write a grant, ask for sponsorship, partner with a state or city parks department, or develop a donation fund. Creativity is always welcome. In Hamilton, Montana, the fairgrounds are looking to develop bike camping in the unused section of the horse stables. They are hoping to fund it with a grant from the state tourism office. 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A message board in Ovando, MT informs cyclists of available services.

USBR 20 signs help cyclists find their way through town and across Michigan.

Welcome Cyclists through Hospitality

Towns providing special services to bicycle tourists isn’t a new concept. Adventure Cycling maps provides insider knowledge to traveling cyclists, such as where to find the closest bike shops, bicycle-friendly lodging, etc. A town park might allow bicycle travelers to stay overnight (with a quick call to the city offices), and sometimes local pools, or at a fire stations provide showers. There are several churches and community centers that offer their yards, spare rooms or basements for cyclists to camp. A growing number of places are developing hostel-style accommodations, such as a farmer’s barn in Washington, a garage turned into a bike hostel in Oregon, and bike camps in Twin Bridges and Ovando, Montana. Many of these services are free or ask only for donations. In other cases, small businesses have emerged, such as Oregon Hotel in Mitchell, OR that turned one of their larger rooms into a hostel for cyclists, Al’s Place in Farmington, Missouri and the increasing popular Whitefish Bike Retreat in Whitefish, MT. These are just a few examples of how communities and businesses are developing around bicycle tourism. For more examples, visit Cyclists Only Camping.

 A bike lane on the state highway shows cyclits they are welcome in Twin Bridges, MT

Collaboration Counts

We also encourage nearby communities to work together. There are often grants, transportation projects, and tourism opportunities that benefit from a regional approach. By partnering, funding requests can be more competitive. Take Fayetteville and Bentonville Arkansas for example. The Razorback Greenway connects these towns and many others along its 36.9-mile stretch and was planned and funded by several partners. The trail also serves to get mountain bikers to trails and accesses countless businesses. While the trail is considered a local amenity, planners also see the trail as destination and an economic development opportunity.

Communities working across jurisdictional lines will have better marketing opportunities to attract bicycle tourists. In our travels across the U.S., we see many county-based bike maps. Unfortunately, bike travelers do not really think about visiting counties, per se. They think about visiting a "destination" — for example Texas Hill Country or the NC Outer Banks. What will your destination be called? How will your region be remembered? How are you branding your area? Travelers will remember the brand and speak positively of the experience if connections between communities/counties are seamless.

The U.S. Bicycle Route System can play a role in this. By designating a route through a community, the system helps build collaboration and buy-in. Stakeholders from multiple jurisdictions learn about the benefits of bicycle tourism, agree on routing and can put local initiatives, such as trails, on a national map.               

Cyclists can camp in the teepee or covered wagon in Ovando, Mt

Connect With Cyclists

Another way you can market to bicycle travelers is through social media. There are many touring cyclists that use Twitter to track route information and post updates about their travels. Each of the Adventure Cycling routes has a hashtag (@ACARoutes) and the U.S. Bicycle Route System (@USBicycleRoutes) hashtags are even simpler, for example: #USBR76. You can connect with cyclists and create an online buzz about your destination through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites by using photos, hashtags, and testimonials to let cyclists know what you have to offer. 

Tell Us Your Ideas & Win! 

So what did we miss? Help us gather more ideas and you could win this U.S. Bicycle Route System goodie bag. We are looking for easy to implement tips that we can pass along to communities. We also welcome examples that show long term planning, investment, and coordination (provide a link). All you have to do is comment on this blog and we will randomly pick a winner on June 1.

We know the capacity for hospitality in America has no boundaries and that there are countless examples of meaningful things that can benefit traveling cyclists and also build bicycle tourism opportunities for the communities.
Help us grow bicycle travel friendly communities and businesses.  

Photo 1 by Barn Bicycle Camping; photos 2, 3, 5 and 6 by Melinda Barnes; and photo 4 by Scott Anderson. Thumbnail photo by Susan Overson.

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BUILDING THE U.S. BICYCLE ROUTE SYSTEM is posted by Ginny Sullivan and Saara Snow of the Travel Initiatives Department and focuses on news related to the emerging U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS).

The 2015 Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. Campaign runs through May 31, 2015. All donations are tax deductible and support Adventure Cycling's organizing efforts and technical assistance for the U.S. Bicycle Route System. The campaign is supported by Adventure Cycling members, bicycle industry partners, bicycle clubs, and cyclists across North America.

Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. is generously sponsored by Exodus Travels, Planet Bike, Ortieb USA, SKS USA, Town Pump Hotel Group, and the Knickerbikers Bicycle Touring Club of San Diego. In-kind sponsors include Bar Mitts, Bike2Power, BikeFlights.com, Bike Touring News, Club Ride, Cygolite, Ortlieb USA, Osprey Packs, Planet Bike, Revelate Designs, Road Holland Cycling Apparel, Rudy Project, Sierra Trading Post, and TiGr Locks

Over the years, the U.S. Bicycle Route System has been supported in part by grants from the Tawani Foundation, Lazar Foundation, the SRAM Cycling Fund, and Climate Ride.

Learn more about the campaign and make a donation at adventurecycling.org/beapartofit.

 

Comments

Jamshed Khan March 18, 2016, 6:42 AM

Host a bicylce race every 6 month, name it attractive and continue the same as its a Biycle Festival; such as Bi-Cyclone

Aaron Marcavitch May 27, 2015, 8:32 AM

We are working on building a destination within our Heritage Area for bike travelers to the DC region. This list is great, but perhaps as part of your website section, I'd add that there be actual activities to do in the area. We have historic houses, nature facilities, artist studios and the like. If you don't have something to do along the way, it isn't much fun!

KJ Garner May 21, 2015, 6:20 PM

Having hosted long tour cyclists recently, I was asked about safe routes up through states north of here and really didn't have any practical advice. Making sure your bike-friendly biz has names/contact info of other local cyclists who *have* done long haul touring and can provide necessary route guidance would be a total win.

Encouraging the use of the cyclist hospitality site warmshowers.org would be keen.

Providing a safe place to store gear or bikes whilst out and about in town (especially in larger cities) either for free or for a nominal fee would be a great thing and could be used as incentive by bike-friendly biz - buy a coffee/sandwich/book here and keep your bike and stuff secure for a few hours.

Cheers

KJ

Morin August 22, 2017, 1:32 AM

This is really very nice and I have missed this opportunity to went there.

I hope this time I will be able to go there.

Alex Phillips May 19, 2015, 12:42 PM

From the feedback I have gotten from hiker/biker campsite user surveys in Oregon State Parks I would list a floor pump higher than the covered shelters.

Michael Hughes May 17, 2015, 9:46 AM

Create a hash tag "pattern" that cyclists can search on Twitter and similar search "tags" on other social media that cyclists in any community can utilize to create information about their local cycling scene. Consistency of "pattern" is what's important. Example "#cyclingTHROUGHxcommunity" for those who want to learn about touring amenities and "#cyclingINxcommunity" to learn about local cycling events or group rides, etc. "xcommunity" is the variable in the pattern.

Ginny Sullivan June 9, 2015, 5:55 PM

Congratulations Michael! You've won the goodie bag! I'll be emailing you to find out how to get your prize in the mail!

Vicky van Santen May 16, 2015, 1:57 PM

A little bit can go a long way. Individual restaurants can welcome cyclists with bike racks and automatically filling your water bottle when you set it on the table.

Ed May 16, 2015, 6:04 AM

Free easy to locate, public restrooms. Love riding into a town and finding a picnic table in the shade with a display listing town services and a map to locate things.

Liz paton May 16, 2015, 3:42 AM

Great fair trade coffee, great brownies, public tool stands (with bike tools attahed), safe parking, access to a good bike mechanic, book store and top class ice cream.

Jackie Carl May 15, 2015, 10:15 PM

I know this sounds silly, but TRASH CANS! We stopped in a town during our tour and stopped on the square for packed lunch. There was a gazebo, without benches, but it got us out of the light rain, but the nearest stores did not have bathrooms for customers, and I had to go a couple of blocks away to the Price Cutter to use their employee restrooms. Then when we were done with lunch and wanted to throw out our trash, there was not a trash can in sight. We had to pack it up and take it with us.

Roy Greenwood May 15, 2015, 7:48 PM

along with the idea of internet access have maps and also elevation profile! this gives us older riders and idea of what to expect or to plan which end of a trail to start. Not sure about in the US but in Canada now the CAA our equivalent of your AAA now offers bike assist: http://www.caasco.com/Auto/Roadside-Services/CAA-Bike-Assist/CAA-Bike-Assist-FAQ.aspx

as well as an App to help out

Jennifer Hudson Mosher May 15, 2015, 6:58 PM

How about small tokens - coins, stickers, that can be used as advertisements and keepsakes in one. The practical is covered, this would be more whimsical.

Jen Cromer May 15, 2015, 6:57 PM

I'm a fan of local, even funky businesses in general like public farms, farmer's markets, or shops with hand-crafted specialties. Rocky Point Creamery in Tuscarora, MD comes to mind. It's only a couple miles off the C&O Canal Towpath.

Susanne Marten May 15, 2015, 4:42 PM

Please consider the City of Tacoma Latin Arts Festival and Juried Art Show (August 0-22, 2015) as a destination.

Susanne Marten May 15, 2015, 4:43 PM

Latin Arts Festival and Juried Art Show website: www.latinartsfestival.com

Anita Johnston May 15, 2015, 3:38 PM

Hey. That's my family pictured.

Silvia May 15, 2015, 2:50 PM

Signage! In town/cities but also along the route.

Great Allegheny Passage does a wonderful job. But the little stickers that the UK's national cycle network uses on sign poles work well too when you want to reduce sign clutter. (Listening Aashto?)

Rob May 15, 2015, 1:58 PM

I'd agree with the idea of needing signage along known routes telling where groceries, stores, restaurants, lodging, and all helpful information. The towns that had those, I was able to find the places to eat and did to with gusto, as well as visit interesting places in town. In addition, having the sign say "Welcome bicyclists!" or something simple like that - I know it sounds trite, but after a long day on a road where I don't necessarily feel welcomed or catered to, knowing that the town wants me there is a nice uplift.

Matthew May 15, 2015, 5:10 AM

I would stop for ice cream and a shade tree.

Keith Serxner May 14, 2015, 6:32 PM

Having just planned a route thru rural Colorado, I would have

Saved hours if each town had a website which included camping, hotel and dining options, along with information on how far from town center each is.

Sean McGurr May 14, 2015, 12:08 PM

I think that it is assumed on your list (under water or shelter), but access to public restrooms in towns should be called out.

Also, under Website, I'd like to mention that as much as possible, the website should be mobile friendly to help out those on the road.

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