Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on January 28th, 2014 at 3:06 pm
participating businesses from Travel
Oregon. The program is free; signs cost
$26 to $56.
After a two-month pilot effort in Estacada and Cottage Grove, Oregon's public tourism agency is going statewide with a program that publicly recognizes businesses for bike-friendly practices.
The idea is to create a well-recognized brand that can identify the state's bike-friendly businesses by a sign in the window — which will, in turn, help bike tourists thank the businesses with their dollars.
In the long run, organizers hope, it'll foster a culture of welcoming bikers at the state's roadside diners, small-town hotels and big-city bars, similar to the 500 hotels now affiliated with Quebec's "Welcome Cyclists" program. And that'll help Oregon further improve its niche in the growing bike tourism industry.
"Enhancing the biking experience for visitors and Oregonians is one of our top initiatives at Travel Oregon," Scott West, Travel Oregon's chief strategy officer, wrote in a news release Tuesday.
The initiative, the first of its kind in the country, follows up on Oregon's first-in-the-nation Scenic Bikeways program, launched in 2010.
It's not too hard to get recognized by the new program. All businesses must offer at least two items on a long list of options (among them: "complimentary bike locks," "bike tire floor pump," "short-term bike parking on site," "complimentary water," "public bathrooms," "dining," "lodging" and/or "wifi") and must fill out a short quiz about the merits of bike tourism. There are also several requirements specifically for lodging and food providers. ("High-carbohydrate food" is one way a restaurant can qualify, for example.)
The program is free to businesses. If a business wants to advertise its status with a metal sign, Travel Oregon will provide it at cost for $26 to $56 depending on type.
"If you were out riding your bike and you saw this sign, you'd probably be pretty excited," Staj Pace, an organizer for the program, told Clackamas County residents at a bike-tourism summit near Mount Hood Saturday.
Phil Lingelbach, chair of the Estacada Development Association and an advocate for better bike amenities as a way to boost the area's economy, said about half a dozen businesses in the Clackamas County city of 3,000 have participated in the pilot program so far.
"There's a couple of them that have those little window stickers," he said. "I think it's just a matter of time. It's pretty hard to get these small businesses to come to meetings, things like that."
A 2012 study by Dean Runyan Associates estimated that tourists who bike while traveling the state (including Oregonians who travel at least 50 miles from their home for in-state trips) spend $400 million annually on such trips. It's about 4 percent of the state's total tourism revenue. Of those who do so, 63 percent are over age 45 and 57 percent have household incomes of $75,000 or more.
Lingelbach, and Travel Oregon, think bike tourists' numbers are likely to keep growing.
Jae Heidenreich of Clackamas County's tourism office said the advantages of welcoming bikers are becoming clear to residents and businesses in places like Estacada and Oregon City.
"Here are real-life people who are really interested in this natural beauty that we have," she said.