Tourism Boost for South Carolina Cities, Midlands Cycling Group Hopes New App Will Encourage Riding, Tourism
Monday, May 6th, 2019
If you want to know the best ways to get around town, ask an experienced, local driver. A Columbia bicycling nonprofit is applying that same theory to a new app it hopes will appeal to tourists and novice Midlands cyclists.
There’s also a way for local businesses to get involved in the Sprocket app, which the Cola Town Bike Collective launched May 1. The app, which can be found at ridesprocket.com, spent a year in development as CTBC members curated a list of more than 400 routes in Cayce, Columbia and West Columbia.
“The goal is to connect the Midlands,” said Scott Nuelken, CTBC president.
The app seeks to find the easiest way for workers or college students to get to their job or class. The idea is to guide riders with turn-by-turn instructions along roads with less traffic than main thoroughfares such as Assembly Street or Elmwood Avenue.
“We take a lot of those short cuts,” Nuelken said. “It takes someone who’s had thousands of miles (riding) in a city.”
There are also “fun rides” for recreational cyclists. The code for the app was written by a Charleston firm, Click Communication Arts.
“We started with 13 different areas of the Midlands where you might want to go,” Nuelken said. “We’re building all of that out.”
Some of the app’s content will be available for business sponsorship, Nuelken said. Also, businesses providing restrooms and free water to cyclists will be identified.
“We’re literally delivering people to their doors,” Nuelken said. In addition, CTBC will help interested businesses with the paperwork necessary to become an officially recognized Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists.
While these types of apps are not available in every city, they have become popular among mountain bikers, according to Dr. Charles Chancellor, who heads the Bicycle Research Team at Clemson University.
“You can get a sense really quickly of the number of trails there are,” he said. “I’m going out West to mountain bike this summer and that’s what I’m using.”
Chancellor said mountain biking apps also describe the difficulty level of each course and allow users to provide comment. Sprocket will offer similar features.
“They’re key for tourists in making decisions,” he said.
Bicycle-related tourism is also catching on in South Carolina. Chancellor said the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile route that runs between Travelers Rest and Lake Conestee in Greenville County, has become an attraction. The city of Greenville provides an interactive online map.
Nuelken said CTBC plans to collaborate with Experience Columbia SC to publicize Sprocket to tourists.
Sprocket identifies where bike racks and repair stations are, as well as Blue Bike locations, which Nuelken believes can appeal to tourists when used in conjunction with Sprocket. Blue Bike is a short-term rental service with docking stations around downtown Columbia.
“Now that we have Blue Bike, what are you going to do with it if you don’t know where the safe routes are?” Nuelken asked.
Spartanburg is recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly Community. The Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains several route maps on its website.
Karl Johnson, president of the Freewheelers of Spartanburg bicycling club, said tourists who come for other reasons may decide to bring their bikes if they know what’s available. As for apps, he said many of his club’s members will upload their routes and times into Strava, a social network for cyclists and runners.
“Strava has a heat map,” Johnson said. “It will show you what roads are most frequently ridden.”
Johnson said he likes to use Ride with GPS to plan a route. Chancellor said there are other popular apps, such as Map My Ride.
“Perhaps the best-known mountain bike apps are MTB Project, Trailforks, and AllTrails,” Chancellor said.
Nuelken said Strava and Google Maps are good for competitive cyclists, but not so much for commuters.
“Google doesn’t acknowledge any bicycle infrastructure,” he said. However, once a route is selected in Sprocket, it can be launched in Strava or Ride with GPS.
Sprocket could potentially be expanded to other cities as well.
“We’ve got friends in Charlotte and Charleston,” Nuelken said.