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Bike tourism gets a seat at the table

Posted by on March 15th, 2007 at 2:14 pm

National Bike Summit 07

Jerry Norquist makes his case.

House Congressional Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and John Duncan (R-TN) held a special roundtable hearing on Capitol Hill today. The topic was bicycle tourism.

DeFazio is the Chair and Duncan is the Ranking Member of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Asked to present various perspectives on the topic were:

  • Jenn Dice – Government Affairs Director, IMBA
  • Jerry Norquist – President, Cycle Oregon
  • Frank Hugelmeyer – President, Outdoor Industry Association
  • Jim Sayer – Executive Director, Adventure Cycling Association

Frank Hugelmeyer’s presentation was the most noteworthy because he gave a preview of a major study just completed by the OIA on the economic impact of outdoor activities in the U.S.

National Bike Summit 07

Frank Hugelmeyer speaks
for the outdoor industry.

Particularly exciting about this study is that they have broken down the results by region, by state, and by activity. We don’t know the Oregon-specific numbers yet, but the initial numbers Hugelmeyer revealed look very very good. If they survive some scrutiny by some other groups, this could be a major milestone study that would be very powerful for the bike lobby. Or, as Hugelmeyer put it,

“Hopefully these numbers give you the ammunition to support bicycling infrastructure.”

Next up with Jim Sayer. Sayer has been working hard on a National Bike Route Network project for the last five years. Amazingly enough, the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) asked for something like this 30 years ago but according to Sayer it got “mothballed for 25 years,” before he picked up the ball again.

National Bike Summit 07

Jim Sayer of
Adventure Cycling

Now Sayer, with backing of the 42,000 member strong Adventure Cycling Association is collaborating with AASHTO and has formed a task force to work on it.

The network will be signed and numbered and will model other efforts currently in place around the world. Sayer says they’ve already made an inventory of all the bike trails in the country and they’re now in their fourth draft of the plan. There was a strategy session for this project at the Summit today.

National Bike Summit 07

DeFazio at the
National Bike Summit 07

DeFazio and Duncan
listen to the presentations.

Jenn Dice from the International Mountain Bicycling Association was up next. She told members DeFazio and Duncan that “trails tourism” is a quickly growing part of mountain biking. She used Mountain Bike Oregon, an event that takes place in Oak Ridge, as an example. Its first year they had 50 people, and just three years later the event was bursting at the seems with 350 participants.

National Bike Summit 07

The four panelists.

Last to present was Jerry Norquist of Cycle Oregon. He emphasized the importance of Frank Hugelmeyer’s study and said the bike industry has long known its “hard numbers” of products sold, but has never known the tourism numbers. Speaking for the bike industry (he worked for both Trek and Specialized) he said, “we don’t sell a product, we sell an experience.”

National Bike Summit 07

The view from the hot seat. Jenn Dice (IMBA)
on the left and Jim Sayer (Adventure Cycling) on the right.

After the four presentations, DeFazio had to leave for a vote. He had some follow-up questions and said he’d return in a few minutes. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to make it back.

Tourism is one of the big themes of this Summit and these presenters did an amazing job making their voices heard.

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This is really great reporting Jonathan. Very interesting stuff and I appreciate it.