|From Knox Gardner|
According to economic surveys, the price of gasoline is dropping, however slightly. Still, it begs the question of how long prices will stay down, and when and by how much prices will rise again. If the long-term trajectory for gas prices is upward, I have to wonder what it will do to the way people commute and travel, and how they will shop and entertain themselves. While gasoline prices in the US are still nowhere near the levels in Europe and Japan, long-term increases will, I think, impact Americans' way of life even more than Europeans' or Japanese people's lifestyles because so much of this country's landscape and infrastructure is designed for the automobile.
Now, I don't expect people who are accustomed to driving a couple of days to their favorite vacation spots to suddenly take up bicycle touring. However, there seem to be signs that more people, particularly the young, are doing that. Almost any time I take a ride outside of New York City, or take a road or a path that leads out of it, I see couples or groups riding bicycles laden with panniers and, in some cases, camping equipment. I am also noticing more and more families (or fathers and sons or mothers and daughters) riding on the paths and trails.
If more of us ride our bicycles, that could actually become a tourist economy unto itself, as it has in places like Portland. In fact, Elly Blue, a bicyclist, activist and writer based in Portland, makes such an argument. She points out that 78 percent of visitors to the city say that its bicycle-friendly reputation played a role in their decision to travel there. She also shows how such tours as RAGBRAI pour money into local economies--which, I imagine, has a real impact in states like Iowa, which ranks 47th among the 50 states in tourism. Even in New York City, a ride like the Five Borough Bike can boost revenues for restaurants, stores and hotels as thousands of people come in from other states and abroad to join local cyclists for the ride.
So...Will Tourist Bureaux establish committees on bicycle touring? Stranger things have happened!