Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bike Trails = Business = $$$$. Advocacy Group Aims to "Make TrailsCount" In Illinois

The authors of a recent study entitled "Making Trails Count in Illinois" suggest that Illinois is failing to adequately develop and promote its bike trails and these failures are hurting local businesses. The 2012 study was spearheaded by two local bicycle advocacy groups: Trails for Illinois and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 
According to the Southern Illinoisan, surveys and electronic trail counts were conducted on six Illinois bike trails last year. The study concluded that more than 300,000 people use the six trails annually. Of these 300,000, one third spend money while traveling along the trails. The average amount of money spent is $30.00. Approximately 20% of the trails' users were not from the surrounding area, and 4% paid money for lodging so that they could use the trails. 
Interestingly, the most common way trail visitors learned of the six trails included in the study was by word of mouth, while less than 1% of the trails' users learned of the trails through tourism promotions. Steve Buchtel of Trails for Illinois asserts that under-maintenance and under-promotion are to blame for Illinois' failure to maximize this economic opportunity. 
Mr. Buchtel stated "People are coming here but they are saying our trails aren't well-maintained and signs are barely there, if at all. Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been gutted. They lost half their workforce so they don't have the people to maintain the trails. They've been cut to the bone and that hurts Illinois." Likewise, Buchtel believes that Illinois is not promoting its existing trails as aggressively as neighboring states, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, where trail use yields millions in annual revenue.
The Illinois Bicycle Attorneys at Keating Law Offices encourgage the Illinois Legislature and local governments to take into account the results of this study. As residents of the Chicagoland area, we are well-aware that bicycling provides a quick and economically sensible means of transportation throughout the City, but we often fail to give due consideration to the opportunities for recreational bicycling throughout the state. Rural bicycle trails provide a great escape for Chicagoland residents and are also a draw for tourists. We fully support the development and promotion of trails that will create more options for bicyclists while also creating more opportunities for local businesses.