Recent years have seen a significant expansion of mountain bike trails in Tasmania that have been hailed for their delivery of economic benefits to regional areas. It’s certainly true that this growing sport can be a major drawcard for interstate tourists as well as drawing cashed up adventurers from Tasmania’s main population centres out to smaller towns to support their small shops and cafes.

Effective as this strategy has been, it has overlooked another side of cycling with as much if not more potential to support local businesses. Cycling is more than speeding downhill, and worldwide road and gravel cyclist numbers are significantly higher than those of serious mountain bikers.

Tasmania’s beautiful scenery provides a wonderful opportunity for the development of cycle tourism, although this is significantly hindered by driver behaviour on the narrow and twisting roads that lead to the most iconic sites. With investment to provide infrastructure that addresses safety issues, it would be possible to attract more riders out into the countryside where they could support hospitality and tourist enterprises.

Compared to those travelling by car, cycle tourists are far more inclined to stop and make local purchases of food and refreshments; this is due to a combination of intention and need.

It therefore makes sense to develop this market sector at least as much as mountain biking.

The challenge of providing a safer riding experience without significant cost would arguably be the main reason for failure to capitalise on this opportunity. Widening roads, for example, would result in significant expense, and the same can be said for the creation of major new bike paths.

However, this overlooks other opportunities with potential to direct cyclists safely to places of interest and beauty. A case in point would be the Derwent Valley Railway which lies virtually derelict on the route between New Norfolk and National Park.

With minimal work and at relatively low cost, this could be converted to a safe and scenic route connecting the two locations. If converted to a rail trail, the towns of New Norfolk, Bushy Park, Glenora and Westerway could all benefit directly, and the state as a whole would stand to gain from increased tourist numbers attracted by what would soon become a must-do ride.

Featured image courtesy Walking the Derwent.

Gregor Watson has lived in Tasmania for most of his life, completing all of his education from kindergarten to university level in the state. His main interests are bushwalking, kayaking and cycling (road and dirt), and inflicting  appropriate irritation upon politicians.