With a meeting last week in Fort Plain to discuss joint economic development efforts, the usually self-contained villages of western Montgomery County are on the right track. Or, more aptly, the right path, for that was one of the main topics of conversation: using the bike path along the Route 5 and Erie Canal corridor to promote bicycle tourism in the region.
These communities, such as St. Johnsville, Fort Plain, Minden, Palatine Bridge and Canajoharie, get to see see the economic impact of cycling each July, as more than 500 cyclists pass through on their 400-mile Canalway trek from Buffalo to Albany. But there is no organized, sustained effort to attract cyclists the rest of the time, as there is with the growing number of rail trails, canal paths and bikeways elsewhere in the country.
Such efforts can pay off handsomely. Cyclists tend to have a lot of disposable income and many will travel hundreds of miles, including to other states, to find places where there’s good cycling, beautiful scenery, attractions and services (the Mohawk Valley has all those things). And when they arrive, they spend — typically $100-$300 a day for food, lodging, souvenirs and other purchases.
The western Montgomery County communities aren’t the first in upstate New York to think in these terms. On Friday, the Regional Niagara Bicycling Committee hosted a "bike summit" that focused on the economic benefits of bike tourism and events, as well as bike-friendly communities. On Oct. 10-11, the state Canal Corp. and Parks & Trails New York will sponsor a similar get-together, a "bike roundtable" called “Bicycles Bring Business,” in Albion.
Montgomery County Planner Douglas Greene says he will try to set up such a meeting locally, a good idea. It’s not enough that these communities want to advertise and organize joint events to bring in bicyclists, they need to learn how best to do it.