History Riding High: Building Bicycle Friendly Communities in West Texas

Strategy: Be Creative (More with Less), Collaborate in New Ways, Enhance Your Product, Know Your Customer/Product, Take Advantage of Tech

Type of attraction: Heritage Area/Scenic Byway/Heritage Trail

Summary: Like many rural areas, Far West Texas depends on tourism as an economic driver, yet has few resources to develop new businesses.

Like many rural areas, Far West Texas depends on tourism as an economic driver, yet has few resources to develop new businesses. While blessed with untarnished landscapes and a rich history, it also faces challenges: low population numbers (less than one person per square mile) and economics (with nearly one quarter of residents below the poverty level). Spending no extra funds from their limited budget, the Texas Mountain Trail non-profit is marketing scenic, untraveled roads into a new tourism asset … for bicyclists.

The Trail used their website at www.texasmountaintrail.com to create an asset: an interpretive bicycling itinerary for a seldom traveled road, the El Capitan to El Capitan Heritage bike ride, a 55-mile route from a newly restored historic hotel to the base of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Based on a successful Scottish program, the organization worked with area hotels, identifying services they could easily provide to cyclists. The resulting cycle-friendly hotel program subsequently expanded to local coffee shops, visitors’ centers, museums and beauty shops.

The cycle-friendly list was distributed at the organization’s booth at travel shows and marathon and bike race expos. Connections were made with cyclists/journalists, bike club organizers, and race organizers for a “fam on bike” tour of the El Capitan heritage bike ride with donated “sag” support and participation from the local community.

Eager to check out an undiscovered new ride, the cyclists from every corner of Texas covered all their own expenses. The “fam” resulted in large city newspaper articles, bike magazine articles, and social media/blog coverage, bringing immediate business to the historic hotel and host community. One of the participants is planning an organized public ride later this year with the local Chamber of Commerce.