Attracting cyclist visitors: bike tourism tips from San Diego

Jennifer Navarrete bikes the San Antonio Mission Reach (photo courtesy Jennifer on Facebook)

Jennifer Navarrete preps for the Southern Tier as she bikes the San Antonio Mission Reach (photo courtesy Jennifer on Facebook)

How can your town become a bike-friendly destination for visitors who enjoy cycling?

As videographer, blogger, and podcaster Jennifer Navarrete kicks off her U.S. cross-country cycling trip this week (we are excited to sponsor the bike tourism aspect of her journey) she arranged a quick phone interview with Candice Eley at the San Diego Tourism Authority.

San Diego is the starting point for the ACA (Adventure Cycling Association) Southern Tier cycling route across the lower U.S. all the way to St. Augustine, Florida. Hundreds of cyclists leave from there every year to start across the Southern Tier, or they end up there if they ride from Florida, plus it’s a bike-friendly town in general.

Jennifer wanted to find out how they do it and what sort of advice they have for other destinations interested in bike tourism.

Here is the direct link to the interview on SoundCloud in case you can’t see the audio recording embed box below.

Here are some interview highlights and takeaways….

What Does Bike-Friendly Look Like?

Candice told Jennifer that San Diego supports cyclists in several ways, not the least of which is gorgeous weather year-round, but even if your weather is not always great, have these elements in place:

**  A supportive Mayor and city government that is willing to budget for cycling infrastructure like bike lanes.

**  Bring more bike parking to public areas, especially in front of businesses. Candice told Jennifer that the city removed some car parking spots around town and replaced them with bike corrals. Make it easy for both hard-core cyclist visitors and those who might not have considered grabbing a bike during their trip, but can be tempted when you make it look like a do-able option.

**  Partner with business districts to reward cyclist customers and visitors. The San Diego Bike-Friendly discount program is a network of shops and eateries that offer a discount to any cyclist customer. It costs US$50/year for merchants to participate, which covers the cost of signage, website listings, and advertising. Jennifer said,

“Wait a minute, I get a discount at these places just for rolling up on a bike?”

Yes, you do!

**   Partner with local cycling groups – in San Diego, the Tourism Authority does a lot in partnership with the San Diego Bicycle Coalition.

**  Create a “complimentary network of alternative transportation” that includes things like San Diego’s DecoBike bikesharing (similar to B-cycle or Spokies in other cities) plus Car2Go and a city-wide trolley system. Candice says it’s good for visitors AND locals!

Top Places in San Diego for Cyclist Visitors

Jennifer already laments not setting aside enough time to see the city – “I will definitely be back,” she said – so for her return trip, Candice recommended two areas to investigate:

**  The 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway, a “gorgeous coastal ride where you can spend an hour or a full day.” Think about how your destination could either build a bikeway through attractive areas, or strengthen your marketing of bikeway assets that you have already.

**  Head away from the beach to explore the Hillcrest/Uptown neighborhoods of North Park and South Park, plus University Heights. There’s shopping, restaurants, coffee places, and local beer, plus many merchants participate in the San Diego Bike Commuter discount program discussed earlier.

We are seeing more and more large cities putting marketing focus on their neighborhoods, so visitors can “live like locals.” The neighborhood page on Visit Philadelphia’s website is one example of this trend.

This Media Coverage Brought to You by Twitter

Finally, we’d like to mention that Jennifer’s interview with Candice came together thanks to a conversation on Twitter. In the last-minute crush of preparations, we realized that we hadn’t sent an email about Jennifer’s project to the PR folks at the San Diego Tourism Authority, but no worries, that’s what Twitter is for!

Candice was listening and monitoring on her organization’s PR Twitter handle, @VisitSD_PR, and she responded to our outreach with the same friendly voice you’d use offline in a Visitors Center.

Responsive DMO on Twitter Jennifer Navarrete and San Diego Tourism Authority arrange to talk about bike tourism

A responsive DMO on Twitter – Jennifer Navarrete and Candice at the San Diego Tourism Authority arrange for an interview about bike tourism.

Thanks so much for connecting, Candice!

(If you’re not sure how to listen to the online conversations that matter, we cover that in Lesson One of our online course in social media for tourism.)

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More bike tourism tips to come as Jennifer rides across the U.S. …. click the ACA map below to go to a zoomable Google map so you can see more details about the route.

In addition to bike tourism, Jennifer will be doing interviews with people to discuss entrepreneurship and the “everyday athlete” as part of her personal Health/Fitness/Beauty Quest: follow hashtag #hfbq on Twitter and Facebook to connect with all aspects of her journey.

ACA Southern Tier cycling route

ACA Southern Tier cycling route

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