My experience with cycling is changing. I spent four years racing at the highest collegiate level at Virginia Tech, however, a significant reduction in free-time and a long list of injuries has shifted my interest in the sport. Most of my riding during my racing days focused on training, now, I ride more recreationally. One thing that has not changed, however, is the persistent close-calls and jeering from aggressive drivers.
Cycling is rapidly growing hobby within the United States. Inaugurated by the Lance Armstrong era, Cycling has surged in popularity within the United States and abroad. As a result, places like Boulder, CO, Asheville, NC, and Tucson, AZ are emerging as domestic cycling destinations- closely following the model of European cycling hotspots such as Mallorca, Bourg-d’Oisans, and Girona.
Additionally, the sport has established itself as a prime money-maker for businesses and regions alike. Cycling is an expensive hobby and many enthusiasts high disposable incomes, that allow them to participate. A 2017 study conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association found that cyclists spent $83 billion on bike related vacations and generated $97 billion in retail sales in 2016. Additionally, this study found that 848,000 jobs were closely related to America’s quickly growing cycling industry. Furthermore, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimated outdoor recreation’s stake in the U.S. GDP at $734 billion (2.2%) for 2017. Additionally, the BEA reported $96 billion in cycling related retail sales for the same year.
Roanoke is emerging as regional player in the Mid-Atlantic cycling scene due with an increasing number of cyclists visiting to enjoy the Carvin’s Cove trail network and the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway. Additionally, Richmond made history in playing host to the second U.S. held UCI World Championships in 2016. Cycling also has a strong foothold in Blacksburg with the “Mountains of Misery” event attracting over 600 participants at its peak.
Despite the positive economic activity related to cycling, there is tremendous hostility towards the sport in the United States. Virtually every cyclist has more than one story of a dangerous run-in with a disgruntled driver. Furthermore, many people simply aren’t aware of cyclists when driving, resulting in countless injuries and fatalities each year. While no-one is expecting a “red-carpet” for cyclists, more could be done to both attract and encourage cycling at the local level and educate the public of its both physical and economic benefits.