The Elevating Erie team has explored many means of upgrading bicycle infrastructure and services from both a transportation and recreational perspective. Cycling is now the most popular form of outdoor recreation in the United States. Results from the Elevating Erie Survey illustrated this popularity, with 49% of respondents in favor of improving recreational cycling services. While bike sharing is one of the means by which to increase bicycle tourism and access, there are other approaches to consider. One of these is the bike trail shuttle service offered by Erie Canal Bike Tours. Erie Canal Bike Tours was there to take cyclists back to DeWitt following our Spanning the Gap Bicycle Tour in June. Elevating Erie recently talked with Diane Kolifrath, co-owner of Erie Canal Bike Tours. We wanted to take a deeper look at this amazing new cycling service.
EE: What inspired you to start the Erie Canal Bike Tours?
DK: My husband and I love cycle touring. Years ago, we spent a few days cycling on the Erie Canalway Trail, and we had to struggle with car shuttling, and finding our own way to the services we needed such as lodging, restaurants, stores and groceries, etc. And while we loved the cycling part of our experience, we found those challenges took a lot of fun out of our trip.
Many years and many cycle tours later, it occurred to me that the ECT was not realizing its potential as a world-class cycle touring destination because it lacked cycling support services like shuttle service, trip planning, ride support and information to connect cyclists to the services they need. As a cycle tourist, I felt I could meet those challenges and help to establish a network of vital cyclists’ services which makes planning a trip to the ECT easy and lets cyclists enjoy a hassle-free adventure!
EE: How does the Erie Canal Bike Tours work?
DK: Erie Canal Bike Tours (ECBT) provides every level of service for anyone wishing to cycle the ECT. We offer full shuttle service along the entire 363 mile ECT, so we can get cyclists to or from their ride conveniently. We also offer a variety of fully-support touring packages, such as inn-to-inn cycling trips, bike & camp trips, and we even offer a “Cycle Touring 101” package to help those new to cycle-touring get their wheels spinning!
EE: How does Erie Canal Bike Tours help facilitate bicycle tourism? What are some of the advantages that it affords cyclists?
DK: At ECBT we LOVE cycling and we think the ECT is one of the best adventures you can have on a bike! We are building a network of cycling resources all along the ECT to make sure that cyclist can connect with the services they need to ensure they have an outstanding experience. Our website is filled with great info to help with trip planning; maps, free itineraries, tips for packing, tips for cycling with kids, and much more. In addition, we run exciting special events that bring cyclists to breweries, vineyards, state parks, and historical monuments.
EE: Where would you like to see the Erie Canal Bike Tours go in the future? What would you like to see happen in New York State?
DK: The future of cycle-touring in New York State is very exciting. The state has committed $200 million to complete the Empire State Trail System which will provide over 750 miles of cycling/recreation trails, and which will position NYS as THE #1 cycling destination in the US. This investment is so significant because it establishes a very high priority on outdoor or “nature” tourism as a revenue stream. And when communities rely on “nature” as a significant part of their local economy, the need to maintain and preserve those natural assets becomes paramount, and that is a win-win for everyone!
At Erie Canal Bike Tours, we are thrilled to be part of this. We plan to not only continue delivering great cycling services along the ECT, but will be expanding our services each year with the goal of providing full cycling support to the entire Empire State Trail System and beyond!