This story is part of my ongoing coverage of the 2008 National Bike Summit. See the rest of my coverage here.
An effort to stitch together thousands of miles of designated bike routes across the country is gaining steam in Washington. With the help of a key partnership with the Adventure Cycling Association, the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has renewed their effort to develop a U.S. Bicycle Route System.
of the Adventure Cycling Association
has been a key player in making
this dream a reality.
(Photo © J. Maus)
The effort began, in policy at least, some twenty years ago. But since that time only fragments of two bikeways — the TransAmerica and Atlantic Coast routes — have been officially designated. Then, in 2004, AASHTO passed a resolution to establish and extend the system and to create an ad hoc Task Force to develop a recommended national plan and blueprint for the program.
A key member of that Task Force is the Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit that has mapped over 37,000 miles of bike routes in the U.S. Since 2005, Adventure Cycling has provided staff assistance for the effort and they have been relentless advocates for the project and have worked closely with AASHTO to move it forward.
Jim Sayer, Adventure Cycling’s Executive Director, has been a tireless advocate for this project and he says all the work is about to pay off. “We’re on the verge of it finally moving through and having AASHTO approve the final plan,” he said, “and once all that comes to pass, we can start putting routes together.”
According to Sayer, there are no set routes yet and the plan is to establish a system of “corridors” — 50 mile wide bands that give rough parameters to help establish the routes. He also says the standards are not yet set for what type of path, trail, or road the routes would be (*Update: Read Mr. Sayer’s comment below for more information.)
Time-frame for final approval is expected to come this fall when AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Highways will take a final look at the plan. Between meetings on Capitol Hill today he told me, “It’s exciting because they’ve historically been focused on moving cars, not bicycles.” Sayer says the project has been a collaborative and deliberate effort; “We’ve really taken our time, but it’s paid off because everyone involved feels really invested in the project.”
Once complete, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will link cities, towns, and regions together with a publicized, maintained, and signed network of bike routes that will, according to the Adventure Cycling website, “connect communities and ensure opportunities for future generations to travel by bicycle throughout North America.”
For more on the U.S. Bicycle Route System, go to AdventureCycling.org.