7 tips to create a great bicycle tourism destination
Seven reasons why Lake Constance is such a great bicycle tourism destination
~ by Phil Latz
I was lucky enough to have a business excuse to travel to the Lake of Constance, locally known as the Bodensee, every year for many years.
This freshwater lake is bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has a total shoreline of 273 kilometers (170 miles).
Every year I’d do some exploring by bicycle. Adding up all trips meant I eventually rode around most of its shoreline, always thoroughly enjoying the experience.
What makes it such a great bicycle tourism destination? And what could other destinations learn from it? Here are seven reasons:
1. Cycle Tourists Love Loops
Somewhere, deep in human psyche there must be embedded a satisfaction in going around in circles. Riding around a lake or other natural loop means that you don’t have to double back and see the same things twice. It means you can finish where you start, making transfer logistics easy. It also sets out a challenge, ‘I’m half way around now, no turning back!’
So even when you don’t have a natural feature like a lake to ride around, for example when creating a new mountain bike park, design in some loops!
2. Natural Barriers Mean Less Vehicle Traffic.
Because Lake Constance has a reasonably jagged shoreline, the main roads tend to be set further inland, leaving bicycle tourists free to ride along quiet shoreline cycle paths and village roads that only cater for relatively light, slow moving vehicle traffic.
Wherever you find natural barriers that deter through traffic: lakes, oceans, mountains, rivers, there’s a strong chance you’ll find areas of great bicycle tourism potential.
3. Bicycle Friendly Public Transport
Given enough time, most bicycle tourists like to ride around the lake, which might take them four or more days depending upon the route they choose and how much they like to ride each day.
But if they don’t have the time, the fitness, have young children or for whatever other reason, there is a web of ferry routes that regularly cross the lake or go from town to town along the shore. All of these are bicycle friendly, as are the trains, that also run along much of the shoreline. Even if you don’t use the public transport, it’s reassuring to have that Plan B.
4. Cycling Friendly Accommodation & Businesses
Because bicycle tourism is such huge business around the lake, just about every hotel and guest house has a bike storage room, usually including a floor pump and basic tools. Most places have hire bikes or even bikes that come free as part of your room charge.
Likewise, it’s common to see a cluster of bikes parked outside every café, playground or other attraction. Often there’s designated bicycle parking and racks provided. The overall effect is that cyclists feel welcome to linger and enjoy the area.
5. Slices of Normal Life
Cycling is popular here, not just for tourists, but for the locals as well. In turn, this makes it even more attractive for bicycle tourists. It’s not just a matter of safety in numbers, but the simple pleasure of watching the locals go about their everyday lives with bicycles being an integral part of it. Whether it be an old man having a snooze in the middle of his daily ride, children riding to school or a grandmother riding back from the shops with a basketful of local produce. For tourists visiting from less cycling friendly places, unremarkable scenes like these put smiles on their faces and make their visits memorable.
6. Great Infrastructure
When you ride around the Lake of Constance you’re not on separated cycling paths all of the way. Some of the journey is on roads. But they’re quiet local roads with low speed limits and considerate motorists. When you come to the many villages and towns, their centers are closed to vehicle traffic.
This makes it so much easier to slow down and look up at the beautiful old buildings often framed by backdrops of green hills or more distant snow-capped mountains.
Infrastructure includes plenty of cycling specific directional signage which tell you the distances to the surrounding destinations to the nearest tenth of a kilometer.
7. Showcase Your X Factor
Every destination has its own unique character and highlights. For example, if you think of New Orleans you’ll think of jazz. Think of New Zealand and you’ll see mountains and natural beauty. For Lake Constance its X Factor might be summed up as, ‘historic lakeside towns separated by unspoilt traditional European agricultural land.’
It doesn’t have a single ‘knockout’ attraction, but that’s actually good news for other aspiring bicycle tourism destinations. You don’t have to have the biggest, oldest or ‘mostest’ anything. Just show off your best attributes well.
Lake Constance showcases its traditional apple orchards, medieval towns and pretty lakeside parks to their best advantage. There might be grander examples of these attractions in other parts of the world, but that doesn’t stop this being one of the most popular cycling routes in Europe that underpins a huge tourism based local economy.
Images credit: Phil Latz