How Gravel Bike Paths Can Boost Rural Economies

In Gravel Roads, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc., Soil Stabilization, Unpaved Roads by Frank Elswick

For small towns and rural communities looking to attract visitors and support local businesses, gravel bike paths are well worth the cost of installation and upkeep. 

Big cities may boast their fair share of tourist attractions, but small towns and rural communities have plenty of options at their disposal when it comes to welcoming visitors and supporting local businesses. From capitalizing on their natural beauty to investing in the infrastructure and amenities necessary to accommodate tourists, it’s possible for municipalities to boost rural economies through a number of cost-effective strategies.

While these strategies will vary from one region to the next, gravel bike paths have become an increasingly popular and affordable strategy across the country. Bike-friendly roads and trails offer small towns a way to attract outdoor enthusiasts and channel that enthusiasm into local business.

For municipal and regional stakeholders interested in boosting tourism and benefiting the wider economy, gravel bike paths are a smart investment. However, it’s critical that these decision-makers ensure that they’re investing in infrastructure that’s built to last. With the right unpaved road building and stabilization strategies, small towns and rural communities can be confident they’re spending precious resources wisely.

Gravel Bike Racing Takes Off

For stakeholders considering whether it’s worth installing and maintaining unpaved bike paths, understanding the increasing popularity of gravel bike racing may help frame a possible investment. The sport is on the up and up across the country. Bicycle Retailer notes that sales of gravel-ready bikes rose from $10 million in early 2017 to $29 million in early 2018.

While this is promising in and of itself, what’s even more compelling is where these bikers choose to compete. By and large, it’s rural areas and small towns with plenty of space and ample natural beauty. For example, the modest community of Emporia, Kansas, saw a few dozen riders in its Dirty Kanza 200 race back in 2006. Now, Bicycling reports that hopeful competitors have to enter just for the chance to be one of 2,500 participants.

Looking at the Bigger Picture

The buzz around gravel bike racing is one thing. The economic benefits that it offers to communities capable of supporting it — and, for that matter, recreational cycling in any capacity — is quite another. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, bicycle tourism generates approximately $83 billion in trip-related sales and contributes to the creation of 848,000 jobs. 

For rural areas looking to boost tourism and drive activity for the local economy, this means that gravel bike paths are a prime business opportunity. With plenty of open space and a minimum of vehicular traffic, small towns and rural communities offer cyclists a golden opportunity to enjoy the outdoors — and support local business while doing it.

Going the Extra Mile with Road Building and Stabilization

Municipal and regional stakeholders interested in gravel bike paths have the opportunity to invest in their communities, attract visitors, and boost their local economies. However, reaping the benefits of such an investment depends on finding the most durable, cost-effective road building and maintenance strategies and products available.

To that end, small towns and rural communities should consider investing in cost-effective road building and stabilization solutions — such as those from Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. Our suite of patented road building and stabilization technologies offer environmentally responsible ways to strengthen unpaved roads, from their foundation to their surface. In fact, Midwest’s advanced polymer-based emulsions create pavement-like strength for unpaved roads — including gravel bike paths — using the soils already in place.

With more than four decades of experience helping municipal stakeholders and industrial enterprises improve and maintain their infrastructure, the team at Midwest is ready to help your community meet all of your unpaved road building and stabilization needs. Whether you’re looking for a one-and-done solution or an ongoing managed service program to handle every step of the gravel bike path construction and maintenance process, we’ve got you covered.

Frank is the sales unit manager of Midwest's road construction and natural paving markets.