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Friday, February 6, 2015

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The wheels continue to turn

Grimsby Lincoln News
More than 100 cycling enthusiasts came together at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Centre in St. Catharines on Jan. 22, to hear details about Venture Niagara’s recently completed Niagara Cycling Tourism project. 
Niagara’s Olympic medallist Steve Bauer welcomed everyone by relating his personal cycling experiences to the evolution of cycling in Niagara. Bauer put some perspective on the many years of ongoing work by volunteers, local municipalities and regional staff that has brought the cycling infrastructure to where it is today.
Susan Morin, community economic development manager for Venture Niagara, was the presenter for the information session following Bauer’s greetings. She notes, “Venture Niagara received funding from the Ministry of Training, College and Universities to help hire a cycling tourism coordinator and provide resources for the project.” Key activities of the project included a cycling related environmental scan of the 12 Niagara municipalities, a survey of visiting cyclists, research on cycling friendly destinations through out the world, and attendance at several cycling related events. These events included participation in a Greenbelt workshop, the Ontario Bike Summit and staffing an information centre at this past summer’s Vélo Québec tour through Niagara.
The highlight of the morning meeting was the public launch of, a bilingual, cycling focused website with a video showcasing Niagara as a premier cycling tourism destination. To see the website information and video, visit Businesses and organizations interested in benefitting from the growing popularity of cycling are invited to advertise on the site as it is relatively inexpensive to do so. In fact, several business owners in attendance at the information session took the opportunity to become among the first to purchase advertising on the site.
Numerous individuals, groups, organizations and municipalities across the region have worked towards establishing Niagara as a popular cycling destination for tourists, recreationists and locals. A variety of programs have been implemented in recent years to cater to this market. Two examples of such programs including Cycle and Stay Niagara and Share the Road- Bicycle Friendly Communities.  Cycle and Stay Niagara is a network of bicycle friendly B&Bs along major cycling routes that are willing to transfer cyclists’ luggage and purchases between accommodations while they are in Niagara. The Share the Road Bicycle Friendly Communities program is a cycling friendly designation program for municipalities. Out of 444 municipalities in Ontario, 26 are designated bicycle friendly. The Niagara region has five municipalities holding this designation. The Town of Pelham has a Silver designation and Grimsby, Thorold, Welland and St. Catharines have Bronze designations.
Much has been accomplished to develop Niagara into a popular cycling destination in recent years. However, there is still much more to be done by cycling supporters, municipalities and others to make this area the premier destination for cyclists from across the province and around the world. One of the most important partners in the future growth of this emerging market is small business in urban and rural Niagara. There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to get on board by building cycling friendly and cycling related businesses. It’s a community project that embraces the whole Niagara Peninsula. For more information contact: Susan Morin, community economic development manager at Venture Niagara 905-680-8085 or visit the Niagara Cycling Tourism website,