Bicycle Tourism I

What’s the potential for Round Lake Beach to capture a piece of the “Bicycle Tourism”  action once both of the following are finished:

– the Rollins Road & Rt. 83 interchange work
– Millenium Trail (and connectors)

It’s not too early to think about this. It’s also not too silly to think about this, even though our much of the village isn’t even set up yet for its own residents to effectively (or safely) cycle about.

Why should we bother? Well, for a couple of reasons, foremost being that Lake County receives over $1 BILLION per year in tourist revenue! How much of that do you think Round Lake Beach generates?

What do we currently have that draws tourists our way? Mostly we have our STROADS, which are lined with strip-malls and shopping centers, each of which comes with their own franschises and eateries like Applebees, Chili’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Wendy’s, McD’s, Taco Bell, etc., etc. Oh, and can’t forget our Wal*Mart! Not a lot for traditionally “touristy” stuff though like historical sights, scenic vistas, bustling “arts district”…

We support the tourists by taking care of some of their needs while they’re on the way to where they REALLY want to go, but are not really drawing them here. 

As far as the whole idea of our village seriously addressing “Bicycle Tourism”…

  • What is the “big picture” for current and future bike tourism in our part of Lake County? Does it represent enough $$$ for us to even bother?
  • What are the typical needs of bike tourists, and what are some of the ways we could (profitably) meet these needs?
  • What are potential areas of “overlap”, where improvements & policies which benefit these visitors could also benefit our own residents who would like to get about town or get some exercise without HAVING to use their cars?

Municipalities all over the country are discovering the economic benefits of becoming "bicycle friendly". [Photo: SF Chronicle]

Municipalities all over the country are discovering the economic benefits of becoming “bicycle friendly”. [Photo: SF Chronicle]

We’ll discuss this over several posts, but here’s something to get the ball rolling:

Lake County Forest Preserve District's (LCFPD) Trail Map, showing Millenium Trail in purple (Solid=current, dotted=planned)

Lake County Forest Preserve District’s Trail Map, showing Millenium Trail in purple (Solid=current, dotted=planned)

Under construction for several years, the Millenium Trail is a planned 35-mile loop through central, western and northern Lake County that will connect to other trail systems. This is a “God-send” to cyclists in and around Lake County, who are often challenged in finding decent day-trip length trips. Trail-riders typically ride between 20 and 50 miles per day; family groups tend toward the lower end, solo riders/small groups favor greater distances.

What makes this exceptionally-interesting for us in RLB is that the trail goes through only a couple of developed areas: Mundelein in the south, and then RIGHT THROUGH OUR CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT! So with that in mind:

From “Transportation Issues Daily“:

“Emerging Trend: Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts (BFBD’s)”

“BFBD’s – Districts where merchants actively encourage people to bike to area shops and restaurants, and where merchants and employees often ride, too.

One of the best things about BFBDs is they can be created by business associations fairly quickly and often at very low cost. Some things are even cost-free.”

How many of our eateries offer a bike rack? [Photo: Flicker... click to see original]

How many of our eateries offer a bike rack? [Photo: Flicker… click to see original]

From “Americal Trails”:

“Bicyclists Bring Business! As with other tourists, bicyclists represent potential customers who can bring revenue into your community by patronizing businesses that meet their needs and contribute to their overall desired experience. And when a particular bicycling destination is so appealing to bicyclists that they will come from some distance away to enjoy it, the dollars they bring with them can be significant.

There are some characteristics of bicycle tourists that make them an attractive audience for your marketing efforts: They are, on average, well-educated older adults (35+) from upper-income households. They typically travel in groups of friends or family members. They are interested in learning about your community and what makes it unique, and in participating in what it has to offer.

They spend money. Many bicyclists who tour independently carry a minimum of equipment and pay for meals in restaurants as they go. Sometimes known as “credit card cyclists” because of their willingness to buy what they need along the way…”

Future posts will cover some specifics we can work on, but in the meantime we highly recommend reading the “Bicycles Bring Business” Guide linked below. It isn’t focused on our area, but is jam-packed with ideas, proven-practices, and insights for villages like ours starting bike-friendliness from scratch.

Link: 28-page “Bicycles Bring Business” Guide [.pdf]
Link: “Five Reasons why Bicycle Tourism Matters”

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