The reason why such an event is important, in case it is not obvious, is that it changes people perceptions about cyclists from being those pesky people who dare ride on the roads to being an economic opportunity. This starts getting us closer to our goal of getting cycling integrated into our transportation, tourism, economy, and culture.
And it is starting to have an effect, even before the event has happened. Just today Visit Northumberland in eastern Ontario has released a new outdoor adventure map with five suggested on-road bike routes. Northumberland's tourism group has already started working with local businesses to promote cycling tourism, and they will be bringing their new maps with them to the forum on Friday. Local businesses are genuinely interested, and want to make cycling specific improvements to attract us cyclists.
We need more of this. When it becomes a priority for Tourism departments, it also becomes a priority for economic development, and it ultimately becomes a civic priority. When local governments and businesses see an opportunity that they want to capitalize they will make investments in order to gain returns. And in this case, it’s cycling that benefits. When it is easy for tourists to cycle, it is easier for locals to cycle too.
Every area of Ontario has reasons for people to want to visit. Almost all have natural beauty, many places have man made attractions, some areas have attractions of historical or political significance, and often times an area has more than one type of attraction for visitors, or attractions for different people.
Like most people I prefer visiting my favourite haunts. It may be that I own property, or have family that I visit, or that there something about an area that I find appealing. But sometimes I may want to find a new area to explore. For a new area to attract me it has to offer something appealing, or perhaps something that is at least familiar. For cyclists that would be safe and comfortable bike routes with interesting and varied destinations along the way, along with the usual human needs of eating & sleeping (and washrooms).
I congratulate Northumberland on taking the initiative and start making cycling tourism a priority, and for trying to do more to make their area attractive to cyclists. It's a gorgeous slice of Ontario, and I wish them the best of luck. They are likely to my family and I will be using those nifty new maps one weekend this summer. Perhaps you be will using one of these new maps, too.