When I began this trip, I had an idealist vision of the west coast. I expected to come away wishing my home state West Virginia would have the same west coast zeal. But the opposite has happened. The more I’m away, the more I appreciate the well-preserved beauty of West Virginia. This isn’t meant to diss the west coast, which is wonderful in its own way, but to compliment all West Virginia has to offer.
I think of the incredible rail trail systems we have throughout West Virginia. Every time a loud timber truck passes me, I value the peace and solitude my home’s forested roads offer. When I reach the top of scenic passes, I’m reminded of our deep valleys full of life and lush green rhododendrons.
I’ve seen first hand how bike touring communities impact the Pacific Coast Highway areas. It benefits the people on the tours as well as the areas biked through. It’s a great way to encourage people to visit a state, appreciate its beauty, and spend money while they’re there.
But don’t just take my word for it. Portland is known as a great place for bicycle enthusiasts. A survey conducted by Portland’s Transportation Options Division (inside the Bureau of Transportation) found that the city’s bike-friendly reputation was part of the reason people decided to visit.
Through a grant from the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC), Portland State University researcher Kelly Clifton studied how transportation options affect spending choices. With a survey, she found that residents who visited establishments by bicycle, compared to those who went by car, overall spent more at the venues.
Portland isn’t the only place benefiting from bikers. According to the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin pulls in roughly $1.5 billion to the state’s economy each year through bike tourism. People on bike tours purchase supplies in the area, eat food from local grocery stores & restaurants, and visit attractions.
It’s not just about the money. Bike touring helps open my world view. I was reminded of this when recently visiting two friends from back home who are on a big road trip (hi Bailey and Maggie!). We realized car campsites are separate and thus discourage interaction, but bike tourists often camp together and operate somewhat communally. Through conversations while biking, people's biases tend to loosen; we share stories and end up growing closer together.
I think West Virginia needs more bicycle tours and I’d love to help organize them in any way I can. I’d like this post to be the start of a conversation. I know there are many long-distance bikers within West Virginia, not to mention a huge community of mountain bikers too. If you’ve ridden long distances in West Virginia like this before and have advice, or if this sounds like something you might be interested in joining, please get in contact with me.