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Our View: Bike paths offer tourism chance

Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

A recent study of Illinois bike trails by the group Trails for Illinois concluded that they are used by hundreds of thousands of people each year.

The study also pointed out that communities with extensive trail networks could be missing out on commercial opportunities, particularly in the form of tourism.

According to the study, Making Trails Count in Illinois, which examined six Illinois bicycle trails, about one-third of trail users spent money during their visit, an average of $30.

The study also found that trail users generally found out about the trails through word-of-mouth, and its authors suggested that there might be commercial opportunities that some cities are missing.

The cities of DeKalb and Sycamore in particular have made good progress in creating a network of bicycle trails that make it possible for riders to go from Route 64 on Sycamore’s east side to Northern Illinois University and south DeKalb. The Great Western Trail also connects Sycamore with the LeRoy Oaks Forest Preserve in St. Charles, just a couple of miles from downtown St. Charles.  

Although the Great Western Trail ends short of downtown Sycamore, for example, it’s not a stretch to think that bicyclists might find their way there.

It is worth examining whether the bicycle trails that connect DeKalb with Sycamore and both cities with people to the east are appropriately marketed and marked. This being Illinois, the 17 miles of the Great Western Trail separating Sycamore from St. Charles don’t include a lot of steep climbs, but do feature a lot of bucolic scenery.

Likewise, it’s a worthwhile goal to continue working on ways to connect local people with commercial centers. A bike ride is good exercise, but people might be more inclined to take one if there’s something to see or somewhere to stop when they get there. Not to mention the many people who use bicycles for transportation either by choice or out of necessity.

Maps of the area’s trail system are available online at www.cityofdekalb.com/Engineering/DSATS/DSATS.htm.

Encouraging bicyclists both from our area and those from elsewhere to take a trip here might not be a tremendous moneymaker, but every bit helps. And the more people become familiar with downtown areas – or our area in general – the more likely they might become to visit again in the future, on a bicycle or in a car.

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