The Economic Benefits of Bicycle- and Pedestrian-based Tourism, and the Economic Impacts of Trail Development


The Economic Benefits of Bicycle- and Pedestrian-based Tourism 


Across the country, bicycle and pedestrian tourists are making significant contributions to local economies.  In some areas, the contribution made by these non-motorized tourists can be as much as tourists using motor vehicles. 


Studies show that where bicycle and pedestrian tourism is fostered and promoted, and where investments are made in bicycle and pedestrian facilities, the economic impact may be even greater.  A thriving tourist industry, in turn, can attract and revitalize businesses, create jobs, and increase public revenue.


Trails and Greenways

Trails and greenways are very popular among vacationing bicyclists and pedestrians. Visitors appreciate and often return to communities that provide places for bicycling and walking safely removed from busy roads and streets.  Trails offer scenic recreation opportunities suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities. Where popular trails exist, lodging providers can encourage extended stays among their guests, thereby increasing occupancy.  For residents, investments in trails and greenways can increase property values and improve the overall livability of a community.


On-road bicycling


Often, bicycle tourism often takes place with little or no investment in facilities or infrastructure normally required to sustain motor vehicle-based tourism.  In regions where networks of lightly traveled back roads and hospitable accommodations are prevalent, on-road bicycle routes can provide visitors and residents alike an ecologically sound alternative to cars and motor coaches for sightseeing and recreational traveling purposes.  Bicycle tourists attracted to such regions are important customers for bed and breakfasts, eateries, and service providers in even the smallest of communities.




Communities that embrace and encourage bicycle- and pedestrian-based tourism can expect these benefits:  


  • Positive contribution on the local economy

  • An improvement in public health by providing opportunities for physical activity

  • Better air quality

  • Negligible impact upon the visual landscape

  • No-cost or low-cost improvements such as shoulders and restrooms that can aid all highway users, and

  • A scale of travel that can enhance the quality of life within the community.


For more information


Here are some resources and organizations that can provide additional information about the economic benefits of bicycle- and pedestrian-based tourism.

Bicycle Tourism in Maine: Economic Impacts and Marketing Recommendations, Maine Department of Transportation, 2001.

Bicycle Master Plan for the Adirondack North Country Region of New York State, a survey by Holmes Associates, Saranac Lake, N.Y. of bicycle tourers who had taken bicycling vacations, 1994.

Environmental and Travel Preferences of Cyclists by Cathy L. Antonakos, Doctoral Thesis, University of Michigan, 1993.

Mountain Biking in the Chequamegon Area of Northern Wisconsin and Implications for Regional Development, Center for Community Economic Development, University of Wisconsin Extension/Madison, 1997.

The Tourism Potential of National Cycle Network Routes: Background Facts and Figures, Sustrans National Cycle Network, Tourism Society Seminar, London, 1997.

Economic Impacts of Bike Tourism: A Case Study of South Carolina, Don Sparks, Professor of Economics, The Citadel, 1998.

South Carolina Bicycle Touring Guide, South Carolina Department of Transportation, Bicycle and Pedestrian Program.

Economic Impacts of Trail Development

The development of bicycle and pedestrian facilities is also proving to be a wise economic investment for the communities through which they pass. Trails and pathways have a positive effect on nearby properties as homebuyers and business owners realize the value that such facilities bring to a community.

According to research conducted by Rails to Trails Conservancy, 85 million people used rail trails in 1994 alone. Given these numbers, it is easy to understand how communities can profit by responding to trail users' needs.  Indeed, many types of businesses including restaurants, convenience stores, bicycle shops, campgrounds and bed and breakfast establishments attribute at least part of their success to a nearby trail. Realtors and homebuyers alike are recognizing the benefits of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and the value of properties located close to such facilities.  Locally and nationally, bicycle and pedestrian facilities have proven to be a cost effective use of public funds. The construction of multi use trails allows more Americans to replace automobile trips with non motorized trips, thereby moving the nation closer to achieving national and community public health objectives by providing increased opportunities for physical exercise.

For more information  

Here are some resources and organizations that can provide additional information about the economic impacts of trail development. 

Pennsylvania Economy League, Inc. and Stephen Farber, Ph.D. An Economic Impact Study for the

Allegheny Trail Alliance. Pittsburgh: January 1999. Available from the Pennsylvania Economy

League, Inc., (412) 471-1477.

Thinking Green: A Guide to the Benefits and Costs of Greenways and Trails, The Center for International Public Management for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails, 1998.
Howe, Jim, Ed McMahon and Luther Propst. Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1997. Available from The Conservation Fund, (703) 525-6300.
Economic Impacts: Models to Reality, Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, New York State, 1999.
Economic Impact of a National Bike Route; La Route Verte, Jean Francois Pronovost and Patrick Joly, Velo Quebec presentation, 1998
Economic Benefits of Trails, Go for Green, Ottawa, Ontario, 1998  
Greer, Donald L. Omaha Recreational Trails: Their Effects on Property Values and Public Safety Omaha: 2000. To obtain a copy contact Donald Greer at 402/554- 3693 or the River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program in Omaha at 402/221-3350.
Lerner, Steve and William Poole. The Economic Benefits of Parks and Open Space. San Francisco: The Trust for Public Land, 1999.
Moore, Roger L., Ph.D. and Kelly Barthlow. The Economic Impacts and Uses of Long-Distance Trails. Washington, DC:National Park Service, 1998.
The Conservation Fund and Colorado State Parks State Trails Program. The Effect of Greenways on Property Values and Public Safety. March 1995. Available from the Colorado State Trails Program, (303) 866-3203 ext. 306.
The Conservation Fund and Colorado State Parks State Trails Program. The Impacts of Rail-Trails, A Study of Users and Nearby Property Owners from Three Trails. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, February 1992. For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328, ISBN 0-16-041677-9.
"Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails, and Greenway Corridors" A Resource Book 1995, Fourth Edition, Revised, Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance National Park Service.
Economic Benefit of Rail-Trails: a Fact Sheet, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 1993.
The Economic Impacts and Uses of long-Distance Trails: A Case Study of the Overmountain Victory National Historic (Walking) Trail, National park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, 1998.


Other Sources


Trails and Greenways Clearinghouse

The Clearinghouse provides technical assistance, information resources and referrals to trail and greenway advocates and developers across the nation.


Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse

The National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse (NTEC) is an information service sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. It provides professionals, policy makers, and citizens with timely and accurate information necessary to make well-informed decisions about transportation enhancements.


Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

The core mission of the PBIC is to ensure that transportation engineers and planners, safety and health professionals, and advocates, have access to the best available information on improving conditions for bicycling and walking in the United States.



Bicycle Federation of America