Sign of the times: Elk Rapids leads the way with national cycling route
Last month marked the official designation of US Bicycle Route 35 with a ribbon cutting ceremony held on the TART Trail in Traverse City. The Michigan segment of USBR 35 takes cyclists from New Buffalo to Sault Ste Marie. Totaling over 5,000 miles in ten states, the U.S. Bicycle Route System is a developing national network of bicycle routes, which link urban, suburban, and rural areas using a variety of appropriate cycling facilities. The Village of Elk Rapids leads the way as the first community in the entire state to install USBR 35 signage to assist visiting and local cyclists in navigating the route in their area.
Misty Youngson, executive director of Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, shared, “We want to encourage the cyclists to visit the downtown area, to visit the shops, restaurants, beaches. It was important to have the signage installed because we wanted to direct the flow of traffic in a safe and effective manner to insure a positive experience. Being included in the USBR 35 means Elk Rapids has been identified as a destination worthy of a visit by the US Bike Route System which could potentially increase tourism and spur economic development for the area.”
Bicycle tourism can mean big business. Wisconsin estimates that bicycle tourism contributes $1.5 billion to the state’s economy each year. Here in Michigan, cycling is a booming business and the state is home to the most number of rail trails in the nation. “US Bicycle Route designation uses a collaborative effort from local communities, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Adventure Cycling Association. National bicycle routes are especially important to us in Michigan as bicycle routes support local economies and help promote Michigan tourism and the increasingly popular bicycle tourism,” explains Josh DeBruyn, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for MDOT.
Other communities are taking notice of Elk Rapids investment in promoting USBR 35. TART Trails, Inc. will install USBR 35 signage along the Leelanau Trail portion late this summer, and are working with the City of Traverse City on signage for the TART Trail. Acme Township is also working on a plan and installation for their segment of the route. These efforts will ultimately help the region better attract and accommodate cyclists visiting or looking to visit the region.