Hospitality for Cyclists: Programs We Can Learn From

May 12, 2015

As the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) expands and more routes are added to the network, we ponder how to best accommodate cyclists wanting to ride on the routes. In looking at defining long-term success, we ask — how can we provide route guides and services for the bike traveling public?

One question the bears asking is how people can access the best accommodations possible while cycling on the U.S. Bicycle Route System (or the Adventure Cycling Route Network). It’s a given that cyclists need a good place to sleep that is safe for both the traveler and bicycle. Last week, we explored bicycle friendly parks – including information on no-turn-away policies and hiker/biker sites. This week, we’re focusing on bicycle tourism; and boy is it growing! One of our overall goals in growing bicycle tourism is to help state and local tourism bureaus promote and support the USBRS.

During my European bike trip from Mestre, Italy (outside Venice) to Amsterdam, Netherlands last summer, I learned about the institutional support bicycling receives from cities, tourism agencies and non-profits. Part of that experience included seeing firsthand the role the hospitality and tourism industry plays in bicycle tourism. After my colleague, Mike Deme returned from a trip visiting Italy’s Bicycle Hotels (you can read about his trip in the February issue of Adventure Cyclist), it occurred to us that there are several hospitality programs for cycle tourists, but none exist in the U.S. Why not? Is there one that might make a good model for the U.S. Bicycle Route System? How are they administered? What do they offer? To answer these questions, I’ve compiled a few of the programs I know about.

Rhein Hotel in  Bacharach, Germany

Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria

Bett+Bike administered by the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club (ADFC)

This program originates from Germany, but incorporates several European countries: Denmark, Luxembourg, and Austria and boasts of over 5,500 accommodations. Bett+Bike offers assurance to cyclists and their bikes will be securely stored amongst other great services. The best part – the site offers a directory and an easy to use search tool for cyclists to find just the right accommodation for their destination, price range and comfort level. And of course, there is an App for that as well.

Engelbert Hau owner of the Kapuzinergarten Hotel & Restaurant in Breisach, Germany explains his philosophy on welcoming bicycle tourists to his hotel. 

Criteria that hotels/B&Bs must meet include:

  • Guests are welcome to stay for only one night
  • Bicycles are securely stored
  • Ability to dry wet clothing and gear
  • The most important tools are available for simple bike repairs
  • In the case of more major breakdowns, having a nearby repair shop ready to help
  • Informational materials, such as regional bike trails and schedules for bus and train, are available so you can find out more about attractive excursions in the area
  • A hearty breakfast in the morning

In addition, hotels & B&Bs must also offer at least two of the following: 

  • Information about arrival by public transportation
  • Shuttle service to and from cycling destinations for cycling guests
  • Good-quality bicycles available for rent
  • Bicycle day trips
  • Luggage transfer from the last and/or to the next accommodation
  • Overnight reservations
  • Important replacement parts
  • Information on the next accommodation
  • Packed lunch
  • Guestbook for cyclists

An added bonus for this program, the site also offers certified bicycle friendly campsites and they are piloting “Sport Accommodations” for mountain bikers and racers.

Morning departure from Domas Clugiae Hostel in Chioggia, Italy

Italy

 Albergabici administered by Federazioni Italiana Amici della Bicicletta (FIAB)

This Italian program has a well-designed website but perhaps isn’t as thorough in what it endorses as Bett+Bike. The emphasis on this program is getting hotels to market to cyclists. In other words, if a hotel wishes to cater to cyclists and offer them special services, they should sign up. Cyclists can then find hotels that cater to bicyclists via the on-line search tool. Cyclists can choose from over 1,000 accommodations.

This hotel on top of Stelvio Pass offered breakfast included with the room.  

The following services might be offered:

  • Secure bicycle storage
  • A small repair shop
  • Bicycles for rent
  • Guides to take cyclists on trips in the area
  • Special menu/food
  • Information on the closest railway station
  • Discounts for European Cyclist Federation (ECF) and FIAB members
Certifications on the front of an Italian hostel

The program breaks offerings up by touring cyclists, road cyclists, mountain bikers and cycling teams. The hoteliers are required to update their information annually and once loaded on the site, the hotel gets listed. If a FIAB member has the opportunity to make an onsite visit, the hotel, B&B or Farmhouse will be “certified” and then shown as a green symbol on the on-line map.

Walking the car-free streets in Chur, Switzerland

Switzerland

The Switzerland Mobility Foundation administers programs for all types of transportation.   

Can I start by just saying – Wow. The entire website is devoted to non-motorized transportation and includes information for hiking, biking, roller blading, and canoeing. They also sponsor a project called “Slow Up” which is similar to the Open Streets events we have in the U.S. Now let’s focus on what they offer travelers.

The distinctive white on red "star" indicating a SwitzerlandMobility certified hotel. 

The main cycling page offers a list of services which include:

  • Bookable offers: pick your tour! It might be guided or luggage transport only. Your options seem endless.
  • Accommodations: Hotels are listed in the center of the page with a search bar on the right. Through a list of check boxes, you can refine your search by type of accommodation (hostel, hotel, mountain hut, etc). Filter your search further by picking the route you are riding (this makes the hunt much quicker). You can also add the remaining services such as rental bikes, places of interest, etc.
  • Bicycle and E-Bike Rental: not bringing your bike to Europe? Here’s a list of places to rent and if you aren’t familiar with E-bikes – well, it’s the new way to travel in Europe. They even have routes with charging stations now.
  • Public Bikes: this service is probably most appropriate to locals but if you are in the market for public bike rental, here it is.
  • Cycle Service: find the nearest bike shop to your route.
  • Places of Interest: Looking for a few things to do while touring Switzerland, look no further; a comprehensive list at your fingertips.
  • Rail, Bus and Boat Recommendation: I love that there are multi-modal connections. With bus, rail and ferry services, you are never without options for reaching your destination. It also eliminates many of the barriers and makes bike travel more accessible to people of all abilities.
  • Guides & Maps:  A comprehensive list of route guides and maps are available on the site. I found the on-line SwitzerlandMobility map to be top-notch and it really helped me plan my tip.

The site takes some getting used to but only due to its comprehensive nature. Take some time and play with this site and you’ll find exactly the route and accommodations you need for your bike tour in Switzerland.

A quaint B&B certified with the Bienvenue Cyclists! sign 

Quebec, Canada

Bienvenue Cyclists! is trade marked and administered by Velo Quebec.

This is a program similar to Bett+Bike but mainly serves the 4,000 km La Route Verte network. There is a search tool which filters by region. Some of the featured facilities have developed a range of related services, such as baggage transportation. Others have teamed up with tourism and economic development partners or played a role in creating local bike routes.

French for "Welcome Cyclists!" this sign indicates the accommodation is certified 

Bienvenue Cyclists! Certifies hotels, B&Bs and hostels offer the following:

  • A covered and locked location to store your bicycle at night
  • If there is restaurant service, your nutritional needs will be taken into account and you will be offered generous portions of fruits and vegetables and high-carb meals
  • A pump and tools for making minor repairs
  • Information about local bicycle repair centers, bicycle rental outlets and tourist information offices

Campgrounds offer:

  • A camping space, even without a reservation, if you are travelling exclusively by bicycle (what we would call a hike-biker site)
  • A sheltered location where you can eat during bad weather
  • A pump and tools for making minor repairs
  • Information about local bicycle repair centers, bicycle rental outlets and tourist information offices
Jean Francois Pronovost cycling La Route Verte with his daughters

I spent some time last fall speaking to Jean Francois Pronovost, archetect of the La Route Verte about administering the Bienvenue Cyclists! program. He explained that it took copious amounts of time to set up in the first several years, but is now considered sustainable. It’s become popular so hotels renew promptly and while the program has yet to pay dividends to the non-profit that administers it, Jean Francois feels it’s a service that must be offered to make the tourism interest grow. It all feeds upon itself.

Where Do We Go From Here?

My takeaways from looking at all these programs is that we must develop a program for the U.S., however, getting things rolling could take a monumental effort and cost a good deal of money. It will take large amounts of man hours just to certify the accommodations on the 8,000 miles of existing U.S. Bicycle Routes, not to mention the 44,662 miles of Adventure Cycling routes. At times, the thought makes my head swim. But I think working to build some best practices based upon the services listed above and by working with our tourism partners, we can come up with a plan for making our American hotels, motels, B&Bs and campgrounds bicycle travel friendly. Then, we might be able to try a pilot project with a long trail, such as the Great Allegheny Passage or some other established bicycle route. In the meantime, share these lists of services with your favorite hotel, B&B or campground. And please pass along these hospitality programs to your cycling friends who are looking to travel abroad or to Canada. I’m sure they’d appreciate a nice, friendly hotel or campground that aims to meet their needs. 

Photos by Greg Siple, Neal Fisher, Ginny Sullivan, Lucie Lanteigne of Velo Quebec and Bharat on Flickr.

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

Alex Phillips May 12, 2015, 5:33 PM

Travel Oregon has developed a Bicycle Friendly Business Program and certification. There are not many requirements- secure bike storage, water and nutritional food. There are some requirements for Bike Friendly Camping too. The website for info is www.Industry.TravelOregon.com/BFB

The idea for the program is simple- but as you said in the article the actual running of the program does take a lot of effort. Seems like Ginny is going to have do a bike tour in Oregon to see it in action.

frans andrea May 12, 2015, 1:01 PM

Hostels and for Holland and surroundings their is an APP called VVV. You can look for all kinds of things including hostels in your area etc.

NEXT Like warm showers. Their is a growing community growing called Fienden van fiets. Friends on bicycles.

When you join that group, it will give you Free locations for overnight provided by other Bicyclists. In return you state that you have a room or sofa etc, you would not mind opening up for Frienden van fietsen.

The later is simular to warm showers, but this one is more for bicyclists. My brother and his wife uses it quite often

Ginny Sullivan May 12, 2015, 1:20 PM

Thanks for this information! We'll look into it.

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