Businesses play key role in bicycle-friendly communities

A group rides, Friday, July 30, 2021 along the downtown square in Bentonville.(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
A group rides, Friday, July 30, 2021 along the downtown square in Bentonville.(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

The League of American Bicyclists, a national organization focused on improving lives and strengthening communities through bicycling, recently released its list of new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Communities, which included Bentonville and Conway being upgraded from bronze to silver in designation.

Like the Olympics for bicycle safety, the Bicycle Friendly Community designation recognizes communities that are accommodating to cyclists with a symbolic acknowledgment in bronze, silver, gold, and even platinum. In Northwest Arkansas, Bentonville joins Rogers at the silver level, while Springdale sets at bronze and Fayetteville remains the only gold level Bicycle Friendly Community in the state.

And while the Bicycle Friendly Community designation goes a long way toward celebrating the cities across Northwest Arkansas that are committed to making cycling safe and accessible, it’s the bicycle-friendly businesses that often serve as the destination for many bicycle trips — for both visiting tourists and the growing cycling community that calls the region home. To understand what it means for a business to be “bicycle friendly,” we need to understand what would make someone comfortable visiting a business by bicycle.

Cyclists are drawn to accessible trail experiences, often opting to begin and end their ride from the local businesses that boast decent access to the growing number of miles of mountain bike and multiuse paved trails being intricately woven into the regions recreational DNA. For business owners, attracting cyclists takes owning the investment in trails being made around you. Own it in your company culture. Own it in your marketing. Own it as part of your retail experience. Own it in talent recruitment. Knowing where your business is in correlation to the trails can help you not only attract the out-of-state cyclists pumping tens of millions into area businesses each year, but the budding workforce in Northwest Arkansas leveraging the trails for transportation.

What businesses are best suited to serve cyclists, you ask? Culinary experiences often top the list for cyclists, followed by bars and breweries, and then coffee shops and cafes. Cyclists want to be locals, but only if they feel safe doing so.

Bicycle security, or the perceived risk of bicycle theft, is often identified as a barrier for cyclists when selecting a business to visit by bicycle. Businesses that invest in prominent, dedicated and business-facing bike parking are often rewarded with a growing customer base thankful for the thoughtfulness. Several simple but meaningful solutions exist to solve for bike parking, with an industry of prefabricated hooks, loops and stalls ready to be retrofitted to most spaces. When considering a location for bike parking, visibility is key. If cyclists can easily glance at their ride from inside, they’ll be much more comfortable stopping in for mid-ride refreshments or platefuls of post-ride calories with their friends.

In the end, bicycle-friendly businesses play a crucial role in promoting active lifestyles and fostering a vibrant, bicycle friendly community. Celebrating your business’s accessibility to trails and being mindful of your bike parking can go a long way toward engaging new customers while standing out as a leader in our community.

Brannon Pack is a longtime cycling advocate in the Northwest Arkansas Region, and professionally serves as the Director of Cycling Tourism for Experience Fayetteville – Fayetteville’s Destination Marketing Organization.

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