Asheville Redefines Urban Bike Ridership
The following is a guest blog
When you think of Asheville, North Carolina, you likely think of the city’s booming tourism industry fueled by its craft breweries, local restaurants, and vibrant art scene. But what you may not realize is that Asheville is also a mecca for cyclists and mountain bikers. Our organization, Asheville on Bikes, has made it our life’s work to increase bike awareness, education, and access to all Asheville residents and visitors.
Biking by the numbers
Just how popular is Asheville’s biking scene? A recent economic impact study funded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation found that bicycle tourism generates $43.3 million in income annually in western North Carolina and supports over 1,700 local jobs. On average, bicycle tourists spend roughly $190 a day when they visit our region.
And while overall bike commuting in North Carolina fell by 10% between 2006 and 2016, Asheville saw a 1.6% increase during that period. In fact, Asheville ranks third for bike commuting among all U.S. cities with a population between 65,000 and 100,000.
Expanding urban-rural bike connectivity
Asheville will soon be at the vanguard of bike path development. The proposed Hellbender Trail (named after our famous and endangered salamander) plans to connect Asheville and its surrounding cities via 155 miles of greenways, shared streets, and natural surface trails. Not only will the Hellbender Trail allow hundreds of thousands of western North Carolina residents to commute the vast area by bike, but its construction and maintenance will generate hundreds of jobs in the region.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, fondly known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” runs through Asheville, offering cyclists access to 469 miles of pristine ridgeline highway, including 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Visitors love the convenience of biking the Parkway during the day and hitting Asheville’s seemingly endless array of brewpubs and restaurants in the evening.
About Asheville on Bikes
After 13 years of encouraging urban and commuter cycling through advocacy, education, and celebration, Asheville on Bikes (AoB) has become synonymous with bicycle culture and advocacy in western North Carolina. Our Executive Director, Mike Sule, believes that cycling has a direct impact on the health of our community—which is why AoB’s mission is to improve Asheville’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, encourage more people to ride bicycles for recreation and transportation, and make Asheville a safe, easy, and enjoyable city to bike in.
Educating our youth
We partner with Asheville schools to help kids get outside and learn how to ride in an urban environment. We also equip students with quality bicycles, helmets, lights, and instructors who are trained in urban riding best practices. During the pandemic, we took advantage of the bike riding benefits of social distancing by extending our after-school bike program through the summer months, thanks to a partnership with local organization, Youth Transformed for Life.
We also conduct CycleSmart courses, taught by League of American Bicyclists-certified instructors to help teens and adults learn how to ride bikes safely and efficiently in an urban setting so they can shop, work, and play without a car (or the hassle of finding a parking space).
Building awareness through advocacy
Every election cycle, we host Get There AVL, a public candidate forum focusing on Asheville transportation systems and issues. These forums allow citizens and candidates to share their perspectives on transportation issues in Asheville in a relaxed town hall setting.
We lobby for bike access and safety locally, regionally, and nationally as part of our commitment to seeing Asheville become the safest place in North Carolina to ride a bike. We also create and share citizen question guides and letter templates for upcoming public meetings.
Hosting the most fun events in Asheville
We know that’s a bold statement but it’s true. Here’s a sampling of our events:
- Since 2018, we have partnered with New Belgium for their annual Tour de Fat celebration featuring the infamous Bike Parade. This event is free and proceeds from beer sales support AoB’s advocacy, education, and community work.
- Held each February, Bike Love is our flagship fundraiser and our biggest party of the year. Proceeds from the tickets and silent auction go directly to supporting improving Asheville’s multimodal transportation infrastructure and encouraging more people in our community to ride a bike.
- This year we partnered with the Bicycle Film Festival to celebrate their 20th anniversary and bring this international event to Asheville for the first time. In true COVID-19 fashion, the event was held virtually, allowing participants to view the festival’s short films at their convenience. Tickets were sold on a sliding scale and all proceeds went to support AoB.
Learn more about our group of bike enthusiasts
As a 501c(3) organization, AoB is supported by the generous contributions and hard work of our members and sponsors. Learn more about our work and how you can get involved at ashevilleonbikes.com. Thanks for reading—now get out there and ride!