The national organization focused on improving bicycle tourism, Adventure Cycling Association, recently wrote up the 10 Indicators that Bicycle Travel and Tourism is Booming.
Georgia has all the raw material needed to become a global destination for tourists who enjoy bicycling. We have challenging mountainous climbs, relaxing coastal bike paths, lovely antebellum college towns, and a vibrant capital city where bicycle infrastructure and cycling culture seems to double every few months.
Most of our mid-size cities boast impressive multi-use paths, from the Heritage Trail in Rome to Columbus’ top-notch Riverwalk and Fall Line Trace. Thanks to the tireless work of the PATH Foundation, Georgia is also home to many dozens of miles of nationally recognized rail-trails, chief among them the Silver Comet, Stone Mountain PATH, and Arabia Mountain trails.
Georgia offers marquee bicycling events like BRAG and the Six Gap Century. There are small and large century rides throughout the state. Casual urban tourists can enjoy excellent sightseeing rides in Atlanta and Savannah. Signed routes for self-guided tours already exist in rural Sumter and Walton counties. One of our Board members, Eddie Shirey of Conyers, just published a guidebook and website for people who want to explore the history and route of Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea” by bicycle.
All this is to say that GA has a lot going on already for bicycle tourism. Bicycle tourism is great for Georgia. It brings in money, shows off the authentic culture and beautiful landscapes of the state, and all of the factors out of our control – history, geography, climate – are completely on our side. So, what about the factors within our control? How do we position Georgia as the bicycling destination in the southeast?
Let’s start by looking at Adventure Cycling’s quick guide for communities who want to capitalize on the bike tourism boom:
“At its most basic, bicycle tourism means offering good riding opportunities alongside welcoming customer service.“
You offer these two traits through:
1) Quality, safe, physical places for people to ride, from standout facilities like the Silver Comet Trail to bicycle friendly city streets and bikable rural shoulders. See our Executive Director’s presentation to Dublin, GA officials for more about designing bike-friendly streets and roads for bike tourists.
2) A friendly, welcoming atmosphere for people on bikes. Check out Social Circle’s cost-effective efforts on this front. Convenient bike parking, bike friendly lodging/camping, and well-publicized emergency and repair services for stranded cyclists are important aspects of creating an atmosphere of welcoming customer service.
3) Be a community of safe drivers who welcome bicyclists to their community. Nothing will scare off bicycle tourists faster than a high-profile hit-and-run…or a nasty personal encounter with an aggressive motorist. Tourists can travel anywhere they want to ride bikes. If your town isn’t welcoming and safe for people on bikes, they won’t come back, and they’ll definitely tell their friends not to visit your community to ride. Engage in “Share the Road” campaigns for local drivers, and make sure law enforcement officers take aggressive and distracted driving seriously.