Want to Attract Tourists? #BikesCanDoThat!

September 18th, 2019

By Lindsay Stroud, GreenUP Transportation & Urban Design Manager

One of only five Bike-Friendly Business Areas in Ontario, downtown Peterborough is a natural location for bike-themed experiences, like the new Pedalboro party bike tours that allow participants to visit downtown establishments via a 15-passenge bike. Photo courtesy of Pedalboro.

“Tally-ho!”

It’s a call you may have heard on the streets of downtown Peterborough this summer shortly before a light green 15-passenger bike rolled past full of people smiling, laughing, and pedaling to their next destination.

That is PedalBoro, a local company that started this summer, offering group cycling tours of Peterborough’s vibrant food and beverage scene. The Pedalboro “Tally-ho!” is the most recent call in an ongoing effort to build cycle tourism in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.

Benefits of Cycle Tourism

A key benefit of cycle tourism is that it can boost spending in downtown business areas. Cycling downtown encourages you to slow down and pay attention to your surroundings. In this way, cycle tourism shows off the amazing downtown businesses that residents and tourists might not otherwise appreciate.

“PedalBoro is creating a chance for groups of people to rediscover downtown Peterborough in a whole new way”, says Hillary Flood, co-owner of PedalBoro, Peterborough’s 15 passenger party bike.

“We find that many of our pedallers leave our tour feeling more connected to our city’s core. They are always commenting on how vibrant the downtown is, and how they plan to come back to explore. Even after a tour, 89% of our guests spend additional time in the downtown supporting local restaurants and pubs.”

It is not just local residents who are jumping on board the new party bike. 60% of Pedalboro’s tours host guests from out of town, and 48% of those are overnight tourists.

The typical cycle tourist stays longer (3.4 nights vs 3.1) and spends more on average per trip than other visitors ($255/trip vs $171/trip). Each year in Ontario, there are almost two million bike visitors, and they are responsible for $428 million in spending.

Cycling and tourism are a win-win combination. Visitors enjoy a healthy trip while our local economy benefits from increased spending without the adverse impacts of increased traffic from cars.

Building Cycle Tourism

Have you ever wondered how Peterborough & the Kawarthas have become known as a prime cycling destination in Ontario? The answer might surprise you.

It all starts with how we, local residents and business owners, embrace bike-friendly culture as part of our daily lives. Only after that can our communities effectively attract cycle tourists.

“We already have a very passionate local cycling community, where cycling is supported at the grassroots level,” observes Tracie Bertrand, Director of Tourism and Communications at Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. “The cycling culture here has helped build our region into the cycling tourism destination it is today. “

In 2011, Ontario By Bike began bike-friendly certification for businesses that offer cycling information, secure lock-up areas, access to washrooms, water, and healthy local food.

There are now over 1,500 certified bicycle-friendly business across Ontario, and the bike-friendly businesses in Peterborough are leading the way. In 2018, Ontario By Bike recognized Peterborough’s downtown area as one of only five Bike-Friendly Business Areas in the province.

As our bike infrastructure improves, cycle tourism grows. Bike rentals doubled at Wild Rock Outfitters in 2019, and visitors often comment on how easy and fun it is to explore the area by bike, starting with the new bike lanes on George Street.

Tourists are also attracted to our city because it is a hub of cycling routes. Trails within Peterborough offer scenic routes connected to The Great Trail (also known as the Trans Canada Trail) that give access to destinations further afield, like Lakefield, Lindsay, Campbellford, and even Ottawa.

An extensive system of trails through Peterborough, including the Rotary Greenway Trail, the Parkway Trail, and the Great Trail (aka the Trans Canada Trail), bring many Ontario tourists to our region. Photo courtesy of GreenUP.

Many cyclists, however, prefer to take their trips on scenic country roads instead of trails. With this in mind, in 2015 Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism partnered with Shimano Canada and worked with local cyclists to develop three double-loop, signed cycling routes known as the Peterborough and the Kawartha’s Classics. In 2019 alone, approximately 600 visitors reached out to the Visitor Centre specifically asking for the Cycling and Trails map to plan their trips. Canadian Cycling Magazine featured these routes and our local mountain biking attractions (including Harold Town Conservation Area) in this 2019 story.

Peterborough & the Kawarthas are primed to draw even more cycle tourists as we continue investment in new trails and paved shoulders, alongside promotion of special features like challenging hills and gravel riding. Photo courtesy of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism.

Another way to build cycle tourism is by hosting events. For example, the Peterborough Cycling Club and partners successfully bid to host the 2018 Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Championships. Over 700 participants registered from seven provinces and three states, resulting in approximately $225,000 in spending in our city. Peterborough is once again hosting this event on November 2 and 3, 2019. Organizers expect even larger crowds this year.

The Road Forward

Peterborough’s quiet rural roads–with picturesque countryside, waterfront vistas, and nature around every corner–are a special attraction for road cyclists. Photo courtesy of Peterborough Cycling Club.

There is still plenty of room for improvement. For example, Ontario residents account for the majority of cycling visits in our province (84%). That means we are not attracting many tourists from outside Ontario. Remember that Ontario gets just shy of 2 million cycle tourists and $428 million in spending per year. Compare that to Quebec, which gets over $700 million in cycle-tourism spending and 1.6 million guest nights exclusively from visitors outside of Quebec.

“Why do I go to Quebec every summer to ride my bike?” asks Marilyn Freeman, avid cycle tourist and Vice Chair of the Peterborough Bicycle Advisory Committee. “A variety of terrain, bike friendly infrastructure, and a culture that welcomes people on bikes!”

“Just look at the economic success of Le P’tit Train du Nord! When the rail trail was built, formerly almost-dead ski villages and towns became alive again with the money and energy that bike tourism brought in. Bikes can do that! Just think of what can happen if we paved the shoulders on Hwy 7 from Lindsay to Ottawa!”

The County of Peterborough has recently committed through their Active Transportation Master Plan to paving shoulders on many of our roads to make them more welcoming for cyclists. Ongoing efforts to build bike-friendly culture and infrastructure will continue to make our communities healthier and also more welcoming for bicycle tourists.

 In 2018, the provincial voice for cycling, Share the Road, released a document titled, #BikesCanDoThat. It details seven benefits that can be achieved when bikes become the daily vehicle of choice for more people in your community. Throughout 2019, GreenUP will be exploring the benefits that can be achieved by a city and its residents, when we commit to valuing the bike as a significant, useful, and fun mode of transportation. This is the fourth installment of the #BikesCanDoThat series.

If you’d like to contribute ideas to the #BikesCanDoThat series, please contact Lindsay Stroud, Manager of Transportation and Urban Design Programs at GreenUP at 705-745-3238 or Lindsay.stroud@greenup.on.ca.

Posted in #BikeCanDoThat!, cycling, Peterborough, transportation