Biking is 'green' in more ways than one

Economic boosts of cycling events an undoubtable benefit to area

By Ken Esten Cooke— It was quite a sight on Saturday morning as cars and bikes stretched the entire length of the airport runway at LBJ National Historical Park. Cyclists by the hundreds streamed into the area for the LBJ 100, which features routes for beginners to advanced, and competitive time trials on the second day.

A lot of work goes into hosting a gathering of that many people, and we give kudos to the organizers of the event, which has grown by leaps and bounds to this year’s total of nearly 2,000 riders last weekend.

A good portion of the nearly 1,600-plus riders stayed in our town, ate here, gassed up vehicles, had bikes repaired, or strolled on Main Street, spending money and contributing to city and county coffers in the meantime. The economic benefits of cycling can’t be understated, not to mention its health benefits.

Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau conservatively estimated lodging revenue of more than a quarter million dollars from cycling tours, where many cyclists stay three, four, five or more nights. Those also create mid-week business for the hospitality industry, which is important to hotels, restaurants and retailers alike.

Like our winery visitors, cycling enthusiasts generally have a decent amount of disposable income. Consider these statistics from economic studies around the nation:

In Iowa, it is estimated the state brings in $1 million each day in economic and health benefits.

Arizona documented more than $57 million in retail sales as a direct result of cycling events, training camps, guided tours and races.

Vermont, in 2009, benefited to the tune of $83 million in additional revenue from biking and walking events and activities.

Even in Minnesota, which is covered in snow much of the year, benefited in excess of $400 million from road and off-road biking events.

Tourism, which includes tourists here on two wheels, is the goose that laid the golden egg around these parts. It amazes us, considering how many other rural towns struggle mightily to attract visitors, that some residents here choose to complain about cyclists rather than welcome them. Having to tap on the brakes while driving in our autos is hardly a hardship.

Cycling is a clean and green industry. Like wineries, a locale could not ask for a more environmentally friendly industry or hobby for which to recruit.

If the city decides to look into the proposed “complete streets” initiative, which would make room for bike and walking lanes, we have no doubt the investments would pay off.

We congratulate the organizers of Texas Hell Week, the LBJ 100 and the upcoming Texas Gran Fondo for bringing thousands of riders and visitors to town and putting on a great event.

Willkommen to our roads.

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