If exercise gets the heart pumping — and, yeah, it does — then consider bicycle trails as veins and arteries that drive rich economic blood throughout Greenville. Just ask Julie Redman and Nicole Johnson, whose businesses keep winning because of the sport.

“We probably wouldn’t be open on Sundays, that’s No. 1, so we would be losing that day of revenue, and the other opportunity for marketing, that’s another,” says Redman, who opened Sweet Sippin’, a wine-and-craft-beer bar in Simpsonville five years ago.

Sunday afternoons see as many as 30 cyclists take off on 22- to 32-mile rides and wind up back at Sweet Sippin’s rooftop. There, now-thirsty customers consume, typically, a couple of beers, she says. Now she’s about to start peddling her second location in West Greenville.

Boyd Johnson works on a wheel at Boyd Cycling. Photo by Bonfire Visuals.

Meantime, Nicole Johnson, who co-founded Boyd Cycling with her husband Boyd, says the Greenville bicycle-wheel manufacturer grew from a $10,000 initial investment to a multimillion-dollar global operation. She estimates payroll for their 15 employees at around $250,000, locally earned and, some, anyway, locally spent.

“In a big picture, there’s almost really no way to quantify the economic impact cycling has on Greenville,” says Johnson, whose company launched in 2009, the same year the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail System opened.

“The Travelers Rest market dynamics reversed — the city was leaking money to Greenville, but after trail development, money from Greenville leaked to Travelers Rest. During an update to the downtown plan by Arnett-Muldrow, 23 new businesses were located in Travelers Rest that had not been there before trail development, 17 said they wouldn’t be there without the trail.”
—  Bob Brookover, senior lecturer, coordinator of Online and Enterprise Programs, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, Clemson University

The SRT, originally a $2.7 million project, generated some $6.7 million in tourist revenue in its third year, drawing more than 500,000 users, with cyclists accounting for an estimated 80% of those. Those figures come from a variety of sources, including a Greenville County fact sheet, a “Year 2 Findings” study and a county official.

That official is Ty Houck, director of Greenways, Natural and Historic Resources at Greenville County Parks, Recreation and Tourism. He suggests that number-crunching can’t come close to measuring other benefits.

Beyond the well-documented economic boon from the 23-plus-mile SRT that runs from South Pleasantburg Road to Travelers Rest, Houck and others say cycling creates myriad intangibles. Those range from lowered health care costs to marketing opportunities — especially for corporate recruiting.

“While we’re not going to compete for businesses at a level like Charlotte or Atlanta, if we are in the top three in the running for places for businesses to locate, we throw down the Swamp Rabbit Trail,” he says.

As Dr. Julian Reed puts it, corporations, and especially those whose executives happen to be avid cyclists, are increasingly listing quality-of-life amenities in their site-selection criteria.

“There’s a direct link in terms of, ‘Well, I want to be on a trail because people go there and businesses do better and more people want to live in more walkable and bikeable communities,’” he says.

Boyd and Nicole Johnson, owners of Boyd Cycling. Photo by Bonfire Visuals

Reed, an associate professor of Health Sciences at Furman University, has been writing SRT reports since its earliest days, adds even more to the list; he mentions healthy workers’ increased productivity and, from one of his studies, 18 bicycle-shop owners who reported more than $100,000 in annual revenues because of their proximity to the SRT.

He also notes property values with proximity to a trail go up by about 10% — “I would say probably more than that here,” he says.

Likewise, as Redman points out, cycling “makes a lot of money because it attracts a lot of people who have money.” (One report found that a focus group of SRT users earned a median household income of $80,000 or more, and nearly 80% held a college degree.)

In other words, one could ride down a swamp rabbit hole chasing after the ripple effects cycling has on a community’s economic well-being.

As Houck puts it, “It is much more than expensive bikes and guys wearing tight pants.”

Take a look at Jim Saunders.

A retired automotive engineer who has lived in Greenville for 16 years, he hangs out at Redman’s bar and rides 150-odd miles a week. He also estimates he spends around $3,000 a year on bikes and accessories; he recently purchased a $280 helmet from Cycle Haus on Simpsonville’s Main Street.

Photo by Jack Robert Photography

“We spent a lot of money,” he says one afternoon at Sweet Sippin’, where he’s wearing something of a mobile billboard: a Cycle Haus bike jersey. “We spend a lot—a lot to me, too—because of places like this.”

Redman adds yet another spin.

The day after she returned from an eight-day bike trip to Italy, she explained how her Lycra-clad patrons had talked her into taking to two wheels two years ago and what that means today:

“We’re all locals and it’s become part of this local community thing where they supported me as a business owner before they supported me as a fellow cyclist. They’ve helped keep me going and allowed me to expand over the past five years and they’ve become dear friends of mine.”

Examples of trail and greenway economic benefits

Here’s just one: Homes in Velo Village Development, a gated community of 21 homesites in Travelers Rest, range from $500,000 to $750,000. (Estimated Greenville County property tax for a home assessed at the latter comes to nearly $5,000 a year, according to tax-rates.org.)


  • A study of the Great Allegheny Passage in 1998 showed an annual impact of $14 million, in 2021 dollars, equivalent to $22 million today.
  • Mispillion Trail in Milford, Delaware, credited with downtown revitalization and reinvestment when the downtown went from nearly vacant to businesses with 250 jobs after trail construction.
  • Leadville, Colorado, saw a 19% increase in sales in the first year after trail development.
  • Average of 9% increase in property values located in trail corridors.
  • Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail System sees 500,000 users per year.
  • Out-of-town visitors spend about $6.25 million per year resulting in 90 jobs.
  • $136,000 in local tax revenues, $219,000 in state tax revenues, and a total impact of $9.5 million per year.

And finally …

  • Every $5 million in investment in infrastructure development supports 52 jobs and spins off $110,000 in local and $175,000 in state revenue resulting in a total impact of $7.6 million.

Source: Bob Brookover, senior lecturer, coordinator of Online and Enterprise Programs, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, Clemson University