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While the 'bicycle-way' offers noble experiences, increasing its popularity is likely to be like going uphill into a head-wind -- slow. All around the messages of tourism and the momentum for how people choose to spend their holidays are pointing in a different directions. We need some behavioral changes.

Less-Developed Countries & Bicycle Tourism

To change a pattern of behavior it is useful to understand what drives it: most westerners' choice of leisure activities reflect their measurement of a 'successful holiday'. When success is calculated in how many entries you have in your passport, how many continents you have played golf on, how many elephants you've seen, how many rolls of film you've shot or how many amenities the resort has, environmentally-friendly/culturally sensitive tourism will be rolling up an incline. To change the tourism we have to change the ethics and goals of tourists. Is tourism to turn someone else's scenic backyard (and front-yard) into the playground of any foreigner who can pay for it. Or, does tourism have certain responsibilities when it comes to visit? What standards should be met for 'environmentally-friendly'? To what extent should it benefit the local economy? And to what extent are visitors responsible for respecting the local culture? Activists who are interesting in changing tourism must first work to reshape the values -- from quantitative to qualitative -- that people use to measure their holidays.

Equal to the requirement for a change in the tourist's behavior and expectations is the need for hosts to attract the 'bicycle tourists' and to facilitate their stay.

In contrast to the vignette on India at the beginning, positive stories comes from Greece and Columbia: In Athens, traffic has been banned in the historic and commercial district, presenting Athenians with a city not seen for decades. "This is amazing. I haven't seen the center like this since I was a child," said a woman, strolling near the Acropolis. Shopkeepers predict better business. High school students painted murals on the sidewalks. One reads "Looks like paradise". In Bogota, when the main thoroughfare is closed to traffic on Sundays people emerge by the tens-of- thousands to walk and bicycle through the center of town. Tourism in general and perhaps more so bicycle tourism, depends on the quality of the environment, so preserving the environment and raising environmental awareness are fundamental to the long term health of bicycle-tourism.

A bicycle-friendly social climate and infrastructure is the next level of preparation to welcome bicycle tourism. The bicycle activity by local people is a good indicator. If levels of bicycle use by residents is growing or already high, it is a good indication that it will be good cycling for visitors. If bicycle transportation is on the wane by residents, it is probably time to address the physical and social climate for cycling.

The necessary level of development of bicycle tourism infrastructure depends on the level of user you intend or expect to attract. If the users are novice tourers, facilities (drinks and snacks) should be 10-15 km (6-10 miles) apart. For light touring it is usually adequate to have services, including meals, available every 25-30 km (15-18 miles) unless there is some climatic extreme. Cyclists of moderate ability can be expected to carry the food and water they need for 50-60 km (30-36 miles) before needing to restock, have a hearty meal and rest for the night. If services are only available every 80-100 km (50-62 miles), you can expect to attract only serious cyclists. Roads can be awful but if the accommodations excel a bike tour can be successful -- and it's not related to the number of stars in the hotel rating. The important qualities might not be what you expect. Key features are: access to registration, access to rooms, bike security and washing facilities. An added plus are design features that gives the place a little character (i.e. courtyards, gardens, local architecture or graphics) and an inviting and well maintained approach and entrance.

Cyclists arrive at their accommodations at the end of the day when they are tired and as always, concerned about the security of their bikes. Hotels with reception areas on the ground floor get a plus because it is usually easier to keep an eye on the bikes while going in to inquire about room availability, rates and conditions. As a rule, hotels with large rooms on the ground floor, where the bikes can stay in the room are preferred. Even if there is a storage room on the ground floor, this is second best because if people need to do bike maintenance in the evening they have to arrange to get the key. My experience has been that it is not of critical importance that there are baths in every room, but washrooms must be clean.

Another element that is always nice is service with a smile. People in every culture know how to smile. For the traveler it is always nice if they bring it to work. For a start, the watchman in front should greet visitors with friendliness and not a weary oh-bother-not-another-one expression. At reception, guests should again be welcomed with a smile and when they are taken to their room, a cheerful person should accompany them. It takes very little and makes a big impression for the housekeepers to also greet a passing visitor with a courteous "good morning" or "good afternoon." I know so businesses that have lost business from our groups because there were rude hangers-on clustered around the entrance. Friendliness and good manners go a long way.

Multi-day tours are not how most people are going start bicycle touring. Most potential bicycle-tourers will be drawn towards tours that are a few hours to a day long. To further encourage bicycling, promoters (i.e. national, state or provincial tourism offices, chambers of commerce, local communities, bike clubs, the bicycle industry) should narratively and literally map out short excursions the bicycle-bound visitor can follow. What is of interest in the areas of architecture, art, botany, culture, education, geology, government, history, industry, music, parks, politics, religion, women and zoology? I venture that every city has its themes: 'public art', 'ethnic communities & their story', 'architecture through the century', 'gardens, parks & views' and 'notorious citizens: skid row to the archdiocese' around which bicycle tours can be structured. Develop and publish itineraries and maps for 2 hour, half- and full-day programs. With this initiate, guides must know their stuff. Many travelers will be well traveled. Guides shouldn't underestimate their knowledge and give them any old answer just to keep them quiet. The visitors will probably see through this and the guide can do irreparable damage to the companies credibility.

Bicycle travel can be frustrating and impractical when you need to worry about securing your bike and baggage while making stops along the route. I am always favorably impressed when restaurateurs and agents at sites (museums, ruins, etc.) invites me to bring my bike inside or helps me make sure that the bike will be secure doing my visit. Establishments that might serve bicyclists need to be made aware of their needs.

It will take a lot of work to create dramatic increases in bicycle tourism.

We can start by: protecting the environment, making the society and infrastructure bicycle-friendly, informing the businesses how to serve bicyclists and then getting the word out that bicycle tourism is fun and exciting!

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