As evidenced in this new bill, the economic benefits of destination bike trails are starting to gain the attention of US senators. The bipartisan Biking on Long-Distance Trails (BOLT) Act was introduced on November 18 by senators Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat from New Mexico, and North Dakota Republican Kevin Cramer, and aims to fund 20 off-road-specific bike trails throughout the United States.
The two mainline items in the S.3264 bill—which you can read in full here—state that the new legislation “will identify not fewer than 10 areas in which there is an opportunity to develop or complete long-distance bike trails” and “identify not fewer than 10 long-distance bike trails, consistent with management requirements for the Federal land identified that make use of trails and roads in existence.” Simply put, the BOLT Act aims to identify and develop 10 long-distance trails, which they define as “a continuous route, consisting of one or more trails, that is not less than 80 miles in length on Federal land” to be used for “mountain biking, road biking, touring, or gravel biking,” as well as improve 10 existing trails with signage and other such infrastructure.
As quoted from New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Lujan in the IMBA press release, “In New Mexico and across America, there are millions of acres of federal lands that have gone untapped for responsible outdoor recreation use. This bipartisan legislation will make bike trails more accessible and safer across America and will provide a much-needed boost to the growing outdoor recreation economy.”
Obviously, these senators are looking at the big picture. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently released statistics measuring the outdoor recreation economy for the nation at $374.3 billion, which accounted for 1.8 percent of the total US economy.
So, where might these trails be? In addition to the New Mexico and North Dakota senators who created the BOLT Act, the bill is co-sponsored by Democrat Joe Manchin from West Virginia, Republican John Barrasso in Wyoming, and Martin Heinrich, another democratic senator from New Mexico. Obviously, New Mexico is in play, but we also hope to see these projects spread out as they could make great pieces of larger bikepacking routes on the East Coast and elsewhere.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the BOLT Act on December 2nd at 10 a.m. EST.
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