Author Topic: Statistics on cross country tourers  (Read 2028 times)

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Offline hikerjer

Statistics on cross country tourers
« on: August 23, 2018, 01:19:34 pm »
Has anyone come across a source that can reliably cite the number of folks who do a cross country bicycle tour in a year?  This question came up in a discussion at a LBS the other day. No one seems to know. Just curious.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2018, 02:04:59 pm »
I too have wondered this for decades.  However, I think it would be pretty hard to get a firm number as the number is relatively small compared to the population. If 25,000 individual people bicycle tour (any length of tour) in the USA in a given year, that would be only 0.00083% of the USA population, way to small for an accurate measurement I would guess.

Also, some questions pop to mind in trying to do the study.  Do you include only citizens of that country (easier to survey but then not realistic), how would you define "cross country", i.e. east to west coast is pretty easy but what about NYC to Brownsville, TX?  Then there is the proverbial what is a "tourer" (I DO NOT want to start a flamefest) question, i.e. ranges from must be totally self-contained and sleep out all the way to a fully supported credit card tour?  Must it be totally self-propelled or can they take a bus/train/plane for a section of it (how big of a section)?  Do they have to complete it or only INTEND to complete it but never did (got sick, in an accident, etc.)?  How do contact them as some might miss the survey since they are out touring when the survey arrives? 

I would think though that ACA would have a somewhat good base number based on map/app sells.  Then the only issue is trying to determine how many tour and do not use ACA maps and/or use a used ACA map (already counted) and/or share a map with someone (not counted).  Then you just have to determine how many tour in other commercial cross-country groups.

I actually think it would be a very cool idea if groups like ACA, WarmShowers, and the Bicycle Tour Network would send a JOINT survey out to their members (and their customers if a commercial entity) to study this (let some college student do the study).  While not a totally accurate number, it would probably cover 75+% of "cyclotourists".

My guess is 1,298,074 people do some form of bicycle touring for at least one night at some point during 2018 in the USA.  They are just hard to find!   ;D

Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2018, 04:11:44 pm »
My guess is 1,298,074 people do some form of bicycle touring for at least one night at some point during 2018 in the USA.  They are just hard to find!

I think you're off by 329.  Maybe a little more.  ;)

I vaguely remember reading an article 15-20 years ago comparing the Appalachian Trail to the Adventure Cycling Trans-Am route.  The author of that article stated that about 10,000 hikers started the AT every year, and about a quarter of them finished it.  At that time they estimated "most" of the 2-3,000 or so cycle tourists that started the Trans-Am every year finished that route.

Obviously, that neglects those who take the Northern Tier, Southern Tier, ride with a commercial operator, or just pick their own route.  AC could (if they were willing) provide numbers for how many sets of TA, NT, and ST maps (and perhaps L&C or WE) they sell in a year -- possibly throwing in numbers north-south routes for good measure.  That's probably the best proxy for number of riders: you'll have small groups (a family, for instance) riding off one set of maps, and other people buy the map set and don't complete a route or never get started.

I suspect the commercial operators add up to no more than a few dozen riders each year.  There's perhaps a half dozen operators who advertise a cross-country route, and their numbers are typically a dozen or three riders who go all the way.  My gut feeling is that there are not many more who develop their own routes for a cross-country ride; most of the posters here who ride on their own have started doing one of the developed routes, and only a very small fraction of the people who've done a long ride will turn around and do another coast-to-coast route on their own.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2018, 05:48:21 pm »
I suspect the commercial operators add up to no more than a few dozen riders each year.  There's perhaps a half dozen operators who advertise a cross-country route, and their numbers are typically a dozen or three riders who go all the way.
I would guess 500+ people cross using commerical and/or non-profit groups cross (E-W & N-S) each year.  One group, can't remember name but they are a college age non-profit that sends kids out rehabing houses along the way, in 3-5 groups of maybe 12-20 each.  There is at least 50 right there.

The hikers have it easy as they can't wander as easily  :D .  They just have to sit by the trail and count.  We cyclists are a like an unleased dog who wanders everywhere.
 
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline DaveB

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2018, 06:45:00 pm »
I expect the only reasonably reliable statistics on bike tourist numbers would come from the commercial and non-profit tour operators.  They certainly know how many customers they have in any given year.  For independent tourists, all we can do is guess.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2018, 10:12:26 pm »
When I was in Missoula years ago, I asked Greg Siple. He said they didn't know. All they know is the number of maps they sell. But since some do it without maps, some use one set of maps for a group, some borrow maps from somebody else, some buy the maps and never go, some start and never finish, etc., the number of maps sold can't really be extrapolated to number of people.

Offline hikerjer

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2018, 11:53:09 pm »
"We cyclists are a like an unleased dog who wanders everywhere. ;D  More like herding cats, I'd say.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2018, 01:53:40 am »
How about defining cross country. From FL to CA is definitely cross country. The Transam route is  cross country. NY to Brownsville is too, but what about Jacksonville, FL to Brownsville? I did that once. If that is, what about FL to Brownsville to  El Paso, TX?

In 1987 I did 2600 miles of the northern tier as mapped by ACA. I met maybe 25 cyclicts, 10 or 15 of which were in a Bikecentennial group. On the ST, on ACA and mostly off, I have crossed 5 times and saw very few cyclists on tour. On one crossing or maybe three I saw  no touring cyclists at all, and that was winter.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2018, 02:02:51 am »
I too have wondered this for decades.  However, I think it would be pretty hard to get a firm number as the number is relatively small compared to the population. If 25,000 individual people bicycle tour (any length of tour) in the USA in a given year, that would be only 0.00083% of the USA population, way to small for an accurate measurement I would guess.

Also, some questions pop to mind in trying to do the study.  Do you include only citizens of that country (easier to survey but then not realistic), how would you define "cross country", i.e. east to west coast is pretty easy but what about NYC to Brownsville, TX?  Then there is the proverbial what is a "tourer" (I DO NOT want to start a flamefest) question, i.e. ranges from must be totally self-contained and sleep out all the way to a fully supported credit card tour?  Must it be totally self-propelled or can they take a bus/train/plane for a section of it (how big of a section)?  Do they have to complete it or only INTEND to complete it but never did (got sick, in an accident, etc.)?  How do contact them as some might miss the survey since they are out touring when the survey arrives? 

I would think though that ACA would have a somewhat good base number based on map/app sells.  Then the only issue is trying to determine how many tour and do not use ACA maps and/or use a used ACA map (already counted) and/or share a map with someone (not counted).  Then you just have to determine how many tour in other commercial cross-country groups.

I actually think it would be a very cool idea if groups like ACA, WarmShowers, and the Bicycle Tour Network would send a JOINT survey out to their members (and their customers if a commercial entity) to study this (let some college student do the study).  While not a totally accurate number, it would probably cover 75+% of "cyclotourists".

My guess is 1,298,074 people do some form of bicycle touring for at least one night at some point during 2018 in the USA.  They are just hard to find!   ;D

Intending to do a transcontinental bike tour, but not completing  should not count because anyone can say they intended to. That is unless they went a very long way and had to quit, say From Saint Augustine to eastern CA and had to quit the tour. But Saint Augustine to Louisiana might not count. It is not easy to fairly define cross country. I think NY to Brownsville would qualify. Cross country seems to say across the country, not the state or three states or five.

Offline canalligators

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2018, 11:08:27 pm »
I think that the number of people who “cross the country” isn’t a terribly useful metric.  It can’t really be used in comparison to anything else, such as tourism spending, highway usage, or infrastructure spending.  Total tourist-miles per year would probably be more useful.  And a harder value to determine!

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2018, 07:39:10 pm »
I think that the number of people who “cross the country” isn’t a terribly useful metric.  It can’t really be used in comparison to anything else, such as tourism spending, highway usage, or infrastructure spending.  Total tourist-miles per year would probably be more useful.  And a harder value to determine!


It is a simple question of how many people cross the US by bicycle each year. I am not sure how those other matters are relevant to it. I did not see anyone arguing that it was a terribly useful metric for anything. Just how many. Regardless of any "metric" it may or may not be, it is probably impossible to determine with a high degree of accuracy. I mean, who is out there counting?

Offline BikePacker

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2018, 08:30:56 am »
 
It is a simple question of how many people cross the US by bicycle each year.
[/quote]
A really, really worthy question Westinghouse & Hikerjer.
I have long wondered, as well as, long decided
that if ACA can't conservatively accurately estimate this figure then,
probably (? :-), no one can?
I'd love to see it estimated in some of these subsets:
1.  Atlantic - Pacific (either direction).
2.  Canada - Gulf or Mexico (either direction).
3.  End to end in one trip, aka non-stop.
4.  End to end via more than one trip (i.e., not non-stop).
5.  Has to be by year completed, or else the calculation could never arrive at your above 'each year.'
« Last Edit: September 18, 2018, 08:33:56 am by BikePacker »

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2018, 09:32:01 am »
My wife Julie and I thru-hiked the Appalachian trail (AT) in 2016. We were 2 of approximately 900+ hikers that thru-hiked the trail that year,(a 20-25% completion rate of those that start). The number reported on this forum I believe is way off the mark. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) uses a volunteer registration and reporting method to obtain statistics; 1. the number that have hiked the trail even over several years 2. the number of thru-hikers having hiked the trail within one year of starting which is approximately the number of "2000-milers". The ATC currently states in the FAQ'S that 15,000 people have ever hiked the AT in their estimate. The numbers are further broken down by age, sex etc. For example, I hiked the trail at age 65 knowing that 3% of the thru-hikers are over 60. Given that the AT is part of the National Park system, I do not know if the statistics help with funding. In 2018 Julie and I biked the entire TransAmerica (TA) bike route. In Virginia it is requested on the TA maps to sign a register in Virginia that would help gather numbers to help with funding in that state. A voluntary reporting system would be interesting for the Adventure Cycling Association to initiate.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2018, 11:05:48 am »
The number reported on this forum I believe is way off the mark.
Are you talking about the AT or bicycling?  If bicycling, what number do you believe is way off other than my joking of 1,298,074?  Again, what is your number based on, i.e. JUST the TransAm, ALL cross-country routes (border to border), or ?
If AT, I have no knowledge of that other than to say that I think AT hikers are tougher than TA bikers.  I would not like to go days without a shower. :)
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Re: Statistics on cross country tourers
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2018, 11:38:24 am »
Are you talking about the AT or bicycling?  If bicycling, what number do you believe is way off other than my joking of 1,298,074?  Again, what is your number based on, i.e. JUST the TransAm, ALL cross-country routes (border to border), or ?
If AT, I have no knowledge of that other than to say that I think AT hikers are tougher than TA bikers.  I would not like to go days without a shower. :)


I was referring to the statistics presented in reply #2 regarding the Appalachian Trail.  With regards to the TransAmerica or all cross-country routes, the Adventure Cycling Association could set up some guidelines. For example, on the TransAmerica bike route maps there is a statement that one can "report your ride completion if you rode 90% of the TransAmerica bike route". Or perhaps a "cross-country" ride would be counted if one rode "x" amount of miles across the country, with "x" being and arbitrary number such as 3600 or perhaps 4000.

The several days on the AT without a shower was not to our liking either. And another yes that the AT was more difficult than the TA but that may be in part due to the time difference- 176 days for the AT; 71 days for the TA.