December 13, 2012
In his October/November 2012 Adventure Cyclist "Letter from the Editor" (PDF), Mike Deme responded to correspondence he had received from Gillian Hoggard (see same PDF), our 2006 Trail Angel Award winner (PDF). Gillian was writing to withdraw her name as a "Cyclists Only Lodging" on the TransAmerica Trail due to a string of bad experiences.
Up until recently, I considered instances of this sort to be a rarity. And while they aren't commonplace, Gillian isn't the only one having these experiences. In the past year, we've also had a church ask to be removed from our maps after a series of cyclists treated their property with disrespect. A longstanding cyclist-only hostel has likewise reported an observed shift in the attitudes of the traveling cyclists they've been seeing.
Based on my observations in general — so, not scientifically speaking — over the last couple of years, to varying degrees, we have had an increase in the number of complaints about rude cyclists. I find this incredibly disheartening. Especially since, when I ask traveling cyclists about the highlights of their trip, "the people I have met" almost never fails to show up in the top ten. This is something I always assumed went both ways and that those people that were "met" found the exchanges positive, too.
In some ways, I suppose it's a simple math equation: more numbers in the traveling cyclist population = greater visibility of bad apples. I'd like to think this doesn't have to be the cost of the rising popularity of bicycle travel. I hope it's simply a lack of understanding and not a permanent trend that can't be stemmed with a little effort.
What we've seen in reaction to Gillian's letter is that there is still a large pool of goodwill out there for traveling cyclists as well as the reminder that hosts need to be clear about their expectations in this exchange. (See the "Letters from our Readers" (PDF) in the December/January issue of Adventure Cyclist for some of these responses.)
We have begun a conversation with the Warm Showers organization -- the leading group facilitating hospitality for touring cyclists worldwide -- and will collaborate with them and their participants along with you, our readers and members, on a friendly guide to bicycle-travel etiquette. Our intention is to end up with a set of best practices and tips for traveling cyclists and hosts to consider when planning to utilize, or become, a "Cyclists Only Lodging" or "Camping" option.
In this spirit, we will be writing a series of blog posts over the course of the spring on different facets of bicycle-travel etiquette addressing issues from how to arrange an overnight stay to managing assumptions of both parties, and a lot in between.
If you have suggestions for topics we should cover, situations you'd like to see addressed, or "rules" you advise, please leave a comment below or tweet it to @acaroutes. Thank you!
Photo 1: Host Teri in Stevens Point, Wisconsin with traveling cyclist Steve from brotherM's Flickr photostream.
Photo 3: Camping in a New Jersey hosts backyard from neilfein's Flickr photostream.
Photo 4: Cyclists and their hosts enjoying a sunset together on Puget Sound in Washington state from gabriel amadeus's Flickr photostream.
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer 'Jenn' Milyko, an Adventure Cycling cartographer, and appears weekly, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.