Let’s be honest, when most of us think about Mississippi, we don’t immediately think ‘Hey, that sounds like a good cycling destination.’ Truth or not, perception is powerful – which is why we jumped at the chance to consult with the town of Ridgeland, one of only two Bicycle-Friendly Communities in all of Mississippi.
We first met Mina at last year’s National Bicycle Tourism Conference. We were so surprised and impressed to see a small-town tourism professional from Mississippi that we couldn’t not find out all about Ridgeland and why they were thinking about bike tourism.
It turns out that the Mayor of Ridgeland, Gene McGee, is an avid cyclist. We’ve seen our fair share of politicians who dig out their dusty bikes whenever the press cameras show up – but this is not Mayor McGee, who hits the pavement for his daily rides whether or not anyone’s watching. The joke, we were told, is that any new ideas for the city had better include bikes.
Ridgeland is also conveniently located along the Natchez Trace, which is one of those great bucket list routes. Every year, Ridgeland sees hundreds of people ride by without stopping, pedaling as fast as possible because there’s too much traffic and everyone says to just get out of Dodge. If only those touring cyclists knew about the nearly-parallel, off-road, multi-use path that local cyclists credit with an increasing interest in biking.
In short, Ridgeland has all the makings of a perfect bike tourism storm. So we flew out for a whirlwind weekend in early May – and came back excited to see what they create.
The anchor for the weekend was the Natchez Trace Century Ride. The good folks at Indian Cycles set us up on a pair of zippy road bikes, and we rode a portion of the century route. The ride may be named for the Trace, but the majority of the ride ventures away from the parkway, following small country roads through equally small towns and beside the Ross Barnett Reservoir (populated, we hear, with its fair share of gators).
Four years ago, we crossed the Mississippi River into Vicksburg, pedaled into the Jackson area, and rode the Natchez Trace into Nashville. We may have spent two weeks in Mississippi, but most of it was either in urban Jackson or along the Trace. The century ride gave us the opportunity to ride into the country and really experience the area. The century ride also gave us the opportunity to enjoy the tree-lined streets and wave at the kids who were watching the riders go by – with the help and support of dozens of volunteers running rest stops and local police stopping traffic at busy intersections.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, though, the best part of the century ride was the hospitality. The century ride treats all riders to a kick-off party the night before the ride, lunch after the ride, and a catered event that evening. This is not a ‘come, ride, get out’ sort of event, this is an invitation to linger and learn more.
Oh, and there were the delightful women in Pelahatchie who could hardly believe that we don’t say “y’all” on the West Coast.
The rest of our weekend in Ridgeland was spent exploring possible day ride routes, touring the mountain bike park, riding the multi-use trail with the Mayor, talking with local cyclists, brainstorming new ideas, presenting about bike tourism, and eating way too much good food.
Granted, we also heard from folks who ride at 4am to avoid the traffic, or who always go out in a big group because ‘you never know what can happen’ – so there is still a lot of work to do. But, bicycling is on the rise in Ridgeland, and there’s a lot of genuine interest in embracing cycling as both a quality of life benefit and a tourism asset – and that’s where good things start.
Four years ago, when we rode through the South, we never thought these places would prick up their ears to the benefits of bicycling – and, yet, that’s exactly what’s starting to happen. One of the things that we tell small towns is that bike tourism allows them to embrace who they are, rather than needing to become “like Portland.” In the South, this makes even more sense, because just being “the South” is enough of an intrigue for those of us who don’t live there. Don’t believe me? Just imagine how good fried chicken and boiled shrimp will taste after a long bike ride.
After a great weekend in Ridgeland, seeing first-hand the growing momentum around bikes, we’re excited to see what they create, and how they help lead the rest of the South.
Over the past two years, as we’ve worked on bike tourism initiatives with Travel Oregon, we’ve been able to ground-truth our ideas about bicycle travel as an economic development vehicle. We’ve also taken every opportunity to learn more about the tourism world – and how to talk to tourism professionals about bikes.
At the end of April, we had the great fortune to immerse ourselves a little deeper into Oregon tourism. First up was the Rural Tourism Gathering, which was a sort of 2.0 program for community members who had previously participated in one of Travel Oregon’s award-winning Rural Tourism (or Bike Tourism) Studios. A few days later, we attended the Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism. In both instances, our main goal was simply to learn and absorb.
What did we take away?
First, and foremost, was the reminder that successful destination development is all about relationship-building: making those connections with the people in your community and neighboring communities, so that it’s a group effort. In small towns and rural regions, this becomes even more important, because it creates a larger talent pool to draw from, and helps lift the entire region.
Which leads into the idea of “coopetition.” By promoting the region rather than just your own small hamlet, you pool resources, and draw a larger number of visitors to spend a larger amount of time/money in the region. Work together to bring folks to the region first, then distinguish yourself from other establishments.
We also learned about the way that tourism promotion is changing. Whereas travel marketing has traditionally been confined to travel-specific publications and focused on selling flights and hotels, it is increasingly focused on lifestyle and the experiences someone can have related to that lifestyle. In other words: “visitors want to travel to where their people are,” and it’s increasingly important to facilitate that connection. Travel Oregon sees articles about the culture of Oregon mountain biking as potentially just as influential as articles about specific restaurants.
And, lastly, we were delighted to hear discussion of the importance of video. In the opening morning remarks of the Governor’s Conference, we learned that 64% of visitors said their travel decisions were influenced by online video content.
What does this mean for bike tourism?
In terms of building and promoting bike tourism, we’re realizing more and more that the tourism aspect is just as important (if not more so) than the bicycling aspect – because simply offering good roads or trails does not secure a positive travel experience. The most successful bike tourism initiatives are collaborative efforts between tourism, business owners, community members, and bike advocates. Bike tourism is about the biking, but it’s also about being a tourist and having a positive travel experience. Or, as Phil Carlson from TREO Ranch put it: “It’s just hospitality, the bicycle is the draw.”
The Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway video is finally out! This is a great ride for someone that wants to explore the rugged country of Eastern, Oregon but wants a good craft beer at the end of your ride. It is unique to other Scenic Bikeways because it is a figure 8 route so you can slice the pie any number of ways depending on how much mileage you want to do. Baker City, one of the ride’s anchors also happens to be on the Adventure Cycling TransAm Route. If you are riding across the country and want to dig a little deeper into the area this is a great route.
Some great bike friendly businesses in Baker City are Barley Browns (awesome brew pub!), Paizzano’s Pizza and the Geiser Grand. Catherine Creek State Park was a gem of a campground on route that is about as idyllic as it gets. The small town of Union has a great hardware store and serves espresso and coffee drinks as well! If you want to experience Eastern Oregon on bike, but don’t quite want to carry all your camping gear this Scenic Bikeway is a great option.
May is known nationally as Bike Month, when cities and communities host bike commute challenges, bike safety rodeos, and various other events to show they support cycling. A lot of the great changes that are happening in our cities is because of the work of passionate advocates – but they do not operate in a vacuum. Supportive businesses and business improvement districts are also helping accelerate change, and this month we’d love to flip the script a little.
Let’s give thanks to the businesses that support biking this month! Let’s frequent the restaurants, pubs, hotels, and retail shops that are supportive of bicycling. I had a creative writing professor tell me that “it’s always better to show than tell,” so in that vein draw a little bicycle icon or thank them for supporting bicycling on their receipts this month and take a photo of it and share it. If you are on Instagram or Twitter, tag it with #bikenomics. If you are on neither, you can email us the photo and we can post it for you.
Our goal is that, by the end of the month, we’ll be able to illustrate to businesses that bikes (and the people who ride them) do generate business in very real and tangible ways! So start drawing bikes and snapping photos!
While our primary focus is on bicycle tourism in rural communities, we also do a few other bike-related video projects with bike advocacy groups because we have a good understanding of the issues at stake. This video is the culmination of several months of interviewing the initial Green Lane Project cities for PeopleforBikes. We traveled to Memphis, Chicago and Austin to interview city officials, engineers and everyday riders to make a short and punchy piece that explains what a protected bike lane is, shows some of its success and provide an emotional hook. The goal was to provide the on the ground advocates a tool to show to their city leaders that can explain what they are asking for in a concise and compelling way.
Walking our talk, we traveled to all the shoot locations largely either by bike or transit. In Chicago we navigated in from the suburbs via commuter rail and bus, in Austin we borrowed an electric cargo bike from Austin B-Cycle, in Portland we used our bike trailer and in Memphis we took the bus from our motel and carpooled with the city Bike/Ped Coordinator. All our gear was condensed into a handful of bags that we had to be able to drag across airports and onto buses, trains and even bikes.
This shoot was easily one of the most challenging involving multiple cities, LOTS of plane hopping, navigating strange new transportation networks, as well as the challenge of threading a narrative from hours of interview footage. At the end of the day, we are pretty happy with video and hope it can serve as a tool for advocates and city officials. That said, the video wouldn’t have the breadth of imagery if it wasn’t for the Clarence at Streetfilms who have been documenting this stuff for years! So grab some popcorn and enjoy and share.
To everyone who joined us for the Oregon Scenic Bikeway Video Release Party… THANK YOU! We packed the house at Chris King HQ and celebrated not only the videos but the whole of the Scenic Bikeway program.
For us, it was incredible to watch the videos on a big screen with a few hundred people, and be able to step back and appreciate all that we accomplished. What a different experience from scrutinizing them on the computer screen in our apartment!
Our hope for the event was to bring the Scenic Bikeways to Portland for an evening and spread the word about the great riding across the state. Our guess is that 200-300 people joined us on Thursday evening, which hopefully means that 200-300 people are now ready to ride the routes and tell others.
One of the biggest highlights was that so many of the proponents traveled out for the event and shared stories and insights about what makes their routes so great. We leaned heavily on these folks when we filmed each route, because we wanted to accurately capture the uniqueness of their area; so we were excited to have them at the event and introduce them to potential new visitors.
Our heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to each of these proponents, for working with us throughout the length of the project; to Travel Oregon, for jumping in to such an immense project with us; to Chris King, for hosting the event and providing delicious food; to Base Camp Brewing, for donating beer to the event; to all of the talent, for spending a few days filming with us and being oh-so-patient; and to each of the businesses that we worked with along the routes.
For more information on the Oregon Scenic Bikeways, visit RideOregonRide.com.
One of the most unique facets of the Oregon Scenic Bikeways is that each route has a proponent group. A route isn’t just designated by the state, rather there is a long application process that requires a group of local supporters to not only propose a route but help create a management plan. While filming the Scenic Bikeways last year, we worked closely with many of these proponents. It was important for us to hear what they saw as the best features of their routes, so we could communicate it in our videos.
On a more practical note, the proponents are also a tremendous wealth of knowledge about the local area. Want to know where to find an IPA out in Heppner? Curious if the “U-Pick” orchard in Kimberly is open for the season? Looking for some good gravel riding in John Day? The proponents know. They can also tell you the best season to ride, where to find water in the middle of nowhere, who makes the best hamburger in the county, and a hundred other details that won’t fit on a printed map or in your GPS.
We are lucky that many of the proponents from different parts of the state will be joining us for the Travel Oregon Scenic Bikeway event! They’ll be wearing something special so that they stand out (we haven’t figured it out yet, but we’ll announce it that evening). We can’t overstate what an incredible opportunity this is to get insider information about planning your trip, and to meet the folks who are supporting cycling in Central and Eastern Oregon. It’s also a great opportunity for the proponents to hear from potential visitors.
If you’re in the Portland area (and beyond!), we hope you can join us. It will be an awesome event, bringing the Scenic Bikeways to you!
-Thursday, March 20th, 2014
-6:00-8:30pm (networking 6:00-6:30pm)
-Location: Chris King HQ @ 2801 NW Nela Street, Portland, Oregon 97210
-Libations from Base Camp Brewing Company
-Appetizers by chef Chris DiMinno
This event is free with donations encouraged for the Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund.
The Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway video was released to the public by TravelOregon a few weeks ago. It stands as one of our favorite shoots; not only because the scenery and riding is great, but because we had the chance to add something a little different to the bicycle marketing stratosphere.
Bike travel and adventure-by-bike are enormously popular right now, but the stories and marketing of those experiences trend toward a really male-dominated narrative. Not that this is inherently a bad thing, but we have learned that successfully marketing an idea to a broad audience means showing said broad audience in your marketing. In other words, if you only see and hear guys, you’re likely only appealing to guys. And, for us, it was important and exciting to produce a statewide marketing piece that showing women, on bike tour, doing rad stuff.
There are lots of little details that seem minute on their own, but contribute to the feel of the piece and make it different from typical bike marketing. From the style of bikes (a custom Pereira, mixed with a vintage 3-speed) to the clothing (sporty but causal, with no giant logo blobs) to the action (camping, rock climbing, and playing a ukelele!). The experience is neither a hammerfest of a ride or a Cycle Chic parade, but remains fun and sporty at the same time.
In the end, it’s just a short 2-minute video. But the more we dive into video production, the more we we recognize the enormous impact these small details can have on bike advocacy and inspiring a broad diversity of people to try riding a bike.
To learn more about the Scenic Bikeways and hear some more behind the scenes details, be sure to come to the Scenic Bikeway Video Launch Event at Chris King!
We’re really excited to announce an event with TravelOregon, Chris King and Basecamp Brewery to release the latest Scenic Bikeway videos. As many of you may know, we spent the better half of last year riding and filming the amazing Scenic Bikeways around Oregon. We’ve been spending the colder months editing the footage and they are all done! What is really special about this event is that we are having proponents from each of the Scenic Bikeways at the event! That’s right, the local advocates from Central and Eastern Oregon are making the long trek out to Portland to be at the event.
So if you are wondering where you should stay in John Day, where you can find an IPA in Heppner or are curious about local gravel rides out of La Grande, then come to this event. The local proponents know their towns and surrounding areas intimately and are a great source of information about riding and recreation around the area.
Also, there’s beer from Basecamp and some awesome snacks coming out of the famed Chris King kitchen. You don’t want to miss it! Here is the Facebook event link and the nitty gritty details below!
Did you know Oregon has Scenic Bikeways!? That’s right, we are the only state in the nation with Scenic Bikeways – offering Oregon’s “best of the best” road biking routes.
For one night, Travel Oregon is bringing the Oregon Scenic Bikeways to Portland! They’ll showcase the short, inspiring Bikeway videos by The Path Less Pedaled – including three new ones never before seen by the public. Intros will be led by the filmmakers, Travel Oregon and Bikeway proponents. Tasty bites will be served by well-known chef Chris DiMinno, and Base Camp Brewing will provide fresh-brewed libations.
-Thursday, March 20th, 2014
-LOCATION: Chris King HQ @ 2801 NW Nela Street, Portland, Oregon 97210
-6-8:30pm (networking 6-6:30pm)
-Libations from Base Camp Brewing Company
-Appetizers by chef Chris DiMinno
This event is free with donations encouraged for the Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund.
See you there!
It’s going to be a crazy week. On Tuesday, we’re off on a whirlwind trip to conduct a series of interviews for a video project with PeopleforBikes. The goal? To document how protected bike lanes are changing cities. We’ll be interviewing elected officials, business owners and everyday riders. This is where you come in!
We have several interviews already scheduled, but we also have gaps of time where we will be shooting b-roll and trying to capture man on the street interviews. So, if you’re interested in talking to us about the experience of riding in a protected bike lane, we would love to hear from you. Contact us in advance or simply drop by while we’re filming b-roll.
Chicago: On Wednesday, February 19, we will be filming on Milwaukee Ave, near the Paramount Room, roughly between 4-6pm.
Austin: On Friday, February 21, we will be filming on Guadalupe, near the bike share station at 21st, roughly between 4-6pm. On Saturday, February 22, we will be filming along the Bluebonnet and Barton Springs protected bike lanes, roughly between 12noon-3pm.
Memphis: We have nothing concrete planned yet, so suggest something! On Monday, February 24, we can meet you in the Broad Avenue district, roughly between 9-11am. On Tuesday, February 25, we can meet you downtown or elsewhere, roughly between 10am-12noon.
If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter we’ll be posting updates with the hashtag #PLPGLP (short for PathLessPedaledGreenLaneProject). So don’t be shy and send us an email us so we can set something up.