MISSOULA, MONT, July 10, 2018 – Long lines of vehicles, congested parking lots, and associated impacts on wildlife are prompting national parks to explore how to provide other transportation options for visitors. Biking is a low-impact and low-stress way that parks are encouraging visitors to travel to and experience parks, particularly in shoulder seasons. Visitation has increased 19 percent over the last six years while budgets and staffing to manage these transportation challenges have decreased.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, about 46 million Americans participate in biking as an outdoor recreation activity, and last year the National Park Service reported 331 million recreation visits.
“The boom in bike travel, events, mountain and fat biking, and even electric bikes, combined with park visitation setting new records each year, is causing the NPS to look at the role bikes can play in providing new and exciting ways to experience parks,” said Saara Snow, parks liaison for Adventure Cycling Association, a national nonprofit working to increase biking opportunities in parks.
“We’re seeing growing interest in events like car-free days and Bike Your Park Day to encourage biking, as well as a focus on bike safety, infrastructure, and even bike camping improvements.” Last April, Adventure Cycling renewed a partnership agreement with the NPS, to help parks accomplish biking initiatives while leveraging increasingly limited staff capacity and funding.
Some parks are also looking at improving bike infrastructure to encourage more people of different ages and skill levels to bike. Death Valley is considering bike path improvements while other parks, like Grand Canyon, are evaluating how to encourage more people to bike into the park on the 6.5-mile Tusayan Greenway trail as an alternative to driving in with their vehicles.
Crater Lake, Shenandoah, and Glacier are a few of the dozen or so parks that have experimented with car-free days, temporarily restricting sections of park roads to non-motorized use, primarily biking and walking. For the last five years, Crater Lake has dedicated two Saturdays in September to Ride the Rim, a car-free event that started with 500 participants and has grown to over 5,000. Its popularity has grown to draw people from outside of Oregon and is so successful that the park may have to cap participation.
Shenandoah saw similar interest with their 2017 Ride the Drive, when the 4,000-person registration limit was reached within hours of opening registration. And Glacier’s bicycle counts have revealed that of the 12,000 bicyclists that visited the park last year, almost 10,000 of them visited during the spring season before Going-to-the-Sun Road opens to motorized traffic.
Bike Your Park Day, an annual event encouraging people to bike in nearby parks and public lands, has also gained recognition and participation among national parks. Organized by Adventure Cycling each year on the last Saturday in September, about 10,000 people participate in all 50 states, with 12 percent reporting their first time biking in a park. This year Bike Your Park Day is September 29, 2018.
Bob Ratcliffe, the NPS Chief of Conservation and Outdoor Recreation said, “Bike Your Park Day has helped introduce new people to parks through biking, a healthy and low-impact activity. Plus, it’s a more immersive experience seeing our parks from the seat of a bicycle than sitting in a car.” Ratcliffe presented an NPS Centennial Award to Adventure Cycling at the National Bike Summit for the launch of Bike Your Park Day during the NPS Centennial celebration in 2016.
Many of these successes are documented as case studies in a new guidebook, National Park Service Active Transportation Guidebook:A Resource on Supporting Walking and Bicycling for National Parks and their Partners, to be published in mid-July.
Krista Sherwood, a Community Planner at NPS, led the effort to develop the guidebook with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center), and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). “This resource will bring together an incredible array of best practices on how national parks are improving biking and walking, so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she said.
“It’s something positive we can point parks, communities, and their partners to when they’re looking for ways to enhance walking or bicycling while also addressing transportation challenges.”
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Adventure Cycling Association inspires and empowers people to travel by bicycle. It is the largest cycling membership organization in North America with more than 53,000 members. Adventure Cycling has produced over 47,000 miles of meticulously mapped cycling routes and maps for North America, organizes more than 100 tours annually, and publishes bicycle travel information including Adventure Cyclist magazine. Adventure Cycling Association has provided dedicated staff support to the U.S. Bicycle Route System since 2005, including research support, meeting coordination, and technical guidance for states implementing routes. Phone: 800-755-BIKE (2453). Web: www.adventurecycling.org.
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