It's an interesting world that we live in today. Most advertising and services that you will see while bicycle touring are very geared to catching elusive dollars as they speed by in cars. For most people going somewhere by car, train, airplane or bus is very much about the destination and very little about the journey along the way.
Bicycle tourists on the other hand are very much focused on the journey rather then the final destination. Sure we think about arriving some place but we also have plenty of time to enjoy the attractions that greet us along the way. Unlike our much faster travelling friends we regularily enjoy pausing to take a picture, visit museums and enjoy interesting conversations with the people that we meet throughout a day.
A typical car will go down the highway at between 100 and 120 km per hour and possibly stop at some point for a single meal. Meanwhile a cyclist will average 20 km per hour and take a day to cover the distance the car handled in a single hour. We will also stop to refuel regularily often eating breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, supper, evening snack and bonous snacks by the time the sun sets. When nightfall approaches we begin looking for places to spend the night.
If you extend the distance to five or six hundred kilometers you are starting at a simple day trip by car becoming a five to nine day tour by bicycle. Since we will stop so many more times along the way there should be a real economic incentive to try to attract cyclists since it's very likely that more of our money will be spent in the places that we visit. While experiencing our multiple day journey we also keep our ears and eyes open for interesting places to spend a day resting, relaxing and enjoying ourselves before getting back on the bike to enjoy several more days in a row of pedaling.
It's true that tourism isn't all about money. You also have to consider the type of people you attract. I've rarely heard of any crimes committed involving a bicycle and I've never heard of a crime committed that involved a fully loaded touring bicycle.
If you also go on to consider that bicycle tourists seem to be a rather curious group who love checking out the unique places in your town, reading about your communities history and then sharing it with many, many people world-wide shouldn't you be aiming to attract these kind of people? After all what could be better for your community then having an ardent group of adventurers talking about the wonderful experience they had visiting you while meeting your people and exploring your community. If you don't believe me check out popular touring journal web sites like crazyguyonabike.com where thousands of people go to read about other peoples bicycle touring adventures. When I rode around Lake Huron my journal received over 32,000 hits and several cyclists later emailed me to tell me about their adventures loosely following in my wheel tracks.
As an example, in Canada the Cross Canada route narrows in Northern Ontario to only two major routes. Both routes go through areas with very, very small communities. Although individual people absolutely do step forward and make cyclists welcome at the mid point of their Cross Canada journey it is too bad that there isn't a more focused effort to create an experience that will cause many more cyclists to take the same journey in future years.
A simple welcome sign listing the nearby campgrounds and places of interest with clear and accurate distance indicators would greatly help. Creating bicycle friendly road environments will go a long way towards improving the welcome that cyclists feel when taking this route. A bicycle friendly road environment doesn't always mean special road construction although I will admit to enjoying riding on a paved shoulder. In many cases creating a strong environment of understanding and encouragement will go a long way towards improving the road conditions for us travellers while increasing our desire to visit your community.
Seeing is believing of course so next June, July, and August drop by the Trans Canada highway in Northern Ontario and count the number of cyclists who are passing through. It doesn't take too many days of counting to discover enough people to fill many conventions centers in the major cities to the south. All those people, all that money and all that free advertising....
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