A Ride That Will Change Your Life: Biking Tourism in Europe

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Pedestrians angrily walk around the flock of bikers. Cars stop dangerously close to the group. Only when the bus light turns green do the cyclists continue riding. The lights of the Eiffel Tower guide the fifteen people on their biking tour of the city.

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A Fat Tire tour guide leads a 3pm bicycle tour over one of Paris’ many bridges. (c) M. Kaestner Oct. 11, 2013

Motor vehicles may dominate  the road, but a large group of bicycles belonging to the Fat Tire Bike Tours demands priority. Three times a day, Paris plays host to hundreds of tourists who explore the city in the most authentic way. The best way to see a city is through      the eyes of everyday locals. Biking through the streets of Paris is not only synonymous with the lives of Parisians, but also a fast and unique way to see all of what they city has to offer.

One way to save money is by riding bicycles everywhere.  In many countries throughout Europe, bikes are becoming the most common way of transportation. The Netherlands has historically dominated the biking industry. Typically, more bikes are imported and sold in the Netherlands than any other countries. Europe remains the largest market for bicycles.

In 1999, Fat Tire tours capitalized on this trend, offering tours in Paris, and then expanding to other European cities such as Barcelona, Berlin, and London. Their website offers different options. Fat Tire Bike Tours offers two day tours and one night tour on bikes. Easy Pass Tours is an extension of the company that is popular with tourists who wish to save a few euro on attractions and landmark sites.

“We usually have about twenty people. Twenty people is our limit. And if we have more we just split. So tonight we had twenty six, so we did thirteen and thirteen,” explained Valli, one of Fat Tire’s tour guides. A Canadian native, she now works for the tour company so that she can afford to live in Paris.

The “city of lights” provides a beautiful setting for city tours. Gliding down the narrow streets of Paris becomes an experience when accompanied with historical facts about the city’s landmarks.

After riding on the 3pm day tour, Soni Jones from Utah, admitted that she had never been on a tour like that before. “I enjoyed it. It was really fun,” she said.

Biking trends in Europe are being used more and more for tourism. In addition to biking tours, many cities rent bicycles for easy transportation and exploration of that city.

Even the small town of Well, in the southern part of the Netherlands, thrives on bike rentals. Each semester, a new class of Emerson College students arrive to study at Kasteel Well, a European extension of the college. About twenty-five percent of students rent bikes in Well, and many additional students share or borrow the rentals.

“I found it’s really helpful especially for groceries and if you want to bike some places and see parts of the Netherlands through biking,” says Duncan Gelder, a student living at Kasteel Well who rented a bike this fall 2013 semester.  “I decided to rent a bike because for what it costs I think it’s pretty helpful for getting around.”

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A view of the castle students’ rented bikes. (c) M. Kaestner Sept. 16, 2013

To rent a bike in Well is 150 euro including a 75 euro deposit that the student will get back. About twenty locked bikes sit in the courtyard of the castle campus. Bike paths are integrated throughout the streets of Well, allowing bikers to travel within the town, to neighboring towns, and even to bordering countries.

“I have done a lot of stuff in Well and the surrounding towns, but I’m hoping this weekend to bike to Germany,” says Gelder. “I think overall it was worth it.”

With the numerous bike paths and roadside maps, visitors of Well can easily and safely cycle through the Old Town past farmland, cornstalks, goat pens, and chicken coops. Riding on the path down the river Maas, one passes tractors, cows, sheep,        and horses. And this is all without leaving the town of Well.

Even the visiting students are participating in tourism created by the biking trend. This flux of rental bike sales is representative of the country’s biking culture. In the Netherlands, there are more than 13 million bikes. That means there is nearly one bike per person.

Biking tourism is becoming more popular, especially for visitors from different cultural backgrounds. Tourists from the United States, where biking is seen as a hobby, would be attracted to the biking tours in Europe. Fat Tire Bike Tours was mentioned in a New York Times travel article on Sept. 20, 2013 about favorite journeys by bike. If biking tourism continues to thrive, Paris cars will have to watch out for more and more large groups of biking tours.

 

mariakaestner

mariakaestner

Maria Kaestner is a student at Emerson College double majoring in Journalism and Marketing Communications. Originally from Melrose Massachusetts, Maria grew up around the Boston area. Currently, she is studying at Emerson's European campus at Kesteel Well for the Fall of 2013.

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