CYCLING – A GROWTH INDUSTRY?
Since its inception in 2009, our local cyclist advocacy group BicycleHaywoodNC, has been working hard to bring the benefits and issues related to cycling to the front of the general public consciousness. I think it is fair to say that most members of the general public either didn’t think about cycling at all or had a negative opinion of cyclists based upon infrequent tales of bad behaviors by cyclists and, more frequently, myths about cyclists’ bad behavior. BicycleHaywoodNC strives to bring a more balanced view of the importance of cycling to our community.
Of the three pillars of the organization (economic development, improved health, reduction in dependence upon foreign oil), economic development is perhaps the least understood and appreciated opportunities for not only cyclists but also for the business community. What is now considered a landmark study in N.C., was completed by N.C. DOT in 2003. The study looked at the cost/benefits of cycling to the Outer Banks Region of N.C. The results of that study turned the heads of non-cyclists within business communities and within the “powers that be” in the NC DOT.
The study demonstrated that the return on investment (ROI) in the Outer Banks is NINE TIMES the one-time cost of $6.7 million dollars to build the infrastructure – ANNUALLY! Not just one year but EVERY YEAR, $60 million dollars flows into the Outer Banks from cyclists spending their vacation dollars and riding the area. BicycleHaywoodNC believes that similar opportunities for income to local businesses exist here in Haywood County where some of the great riding in the country is available!
Cycling can transform communities – In Damascus, VA, The Virginia Creeper Trail business tax revenues increased from $23,000 in 2003 to $52,000 in 2008 representing a 56% increase in five years. Meal and lodging tax revenues increased by 60% in just 6 years ($42,000 to $104,150 in 2007/08).
Cycling results in business expansion and jobs – In nearby Greenville, SC the Swamp Rabbit Trail connects Travelers Rest to downtown Greenville. Built upon the old Swamp Rabbit railroad line, the trail has seen an infusion of businesses locating along the trail attracting local riders. Travelers Rest businesses have benefited from an increase in income from riders now willing and able to pedal their way to restaurants, shops, etc. The Wal-Mart in Travelers Rest saw a 300% increase in bike sales after the trail opened.
Waynesville Rotary, the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, and BicycleHaywoodNC (a chapter of Blue Ridge Bicycle Club) will sponsor opportunities for local business leaders, elected officials, and citizens to learn more about the benefits of cycling to communities. On August 17th and 18th, as part of the 3rd Annual Blue Ridge Breakaway, Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of “The Path Less Pedaled” will be present to share their extensive experience in bicycling friendly communities. Specific details will be forthcoming but you can read more now at www.pathlesspedaled.com ! (**Sources for economic figures for this column are attributed to the Land of Sky Regional Bike Plan study.)
BicycleHaywoodNC welcomes BETHEL GROCERY STORE as a "Bicycle Friendly Business" now offering up cycling related supplies!
For more information, visit http://gr8smokieszeke.blogspot.com and www.bicyclehaywoodnc.org . You may also link to Zeke’s Great Smoky Mountain 2 Wheeled Adventures under Opinion on the Mountaineer’s website.