Trails in Indiana

BIKE ACROSS AMERICA 3

Introducing: An Interstate Bike Route System for the United States

 

As more Hoosiers get on board, we may see signs like this.
That’s because a program for national bicycle route designation has started, once again, to take shape. This revived system aims, ultimately, to interconnect the entire country through a system of bicycle routes, promoting fitness, lowering gas emissions and providing new economic opportunities all across the country.
 
This ambitious project began as an idea introduced by a visionary article in American Cycling Magazine, in 1968. “200,000 Mile of Bikeways to Become a Reality within Decade” became the first major media announcement of an ambition to develop a connected network of bikeways across the U.S.
 
A dedicated Homestead, Florida couple went after the idea and managed to reach the attention and approval of President Lyndon Johnson. Coincidentally, Congress also enacted a trail project called the National Trails System, in 1968, which established a system of national hiking and walking trails for recreational, cultural and historical purposes.
 
Bikecentennial, a transcontinental bicycle ride commemorating the Bicentennial, also got media recognition and provided added cache to the notion of  cross county bike routes.
While these events stirred grass roots support, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), a non-profit that provides uniform guidelines for all state departments of transportation and handles uniform markings and signage for the U.S. highway system, became involved. This demonstrated the apparent government acknowledgement of the need and desirability of this type of public venue.
 
In 1978, AASHTO formally recognized the existence of “U.S. Bicycle Routes” and established two routes in 1982: U.S. Bicycle Route 1, in Virginia and North Carolina and U.S. Bicycle Route 76, in Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois, initiating the U. S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS).
 
Like most organizational efforts, goals are met in fits and starts, and since then, no other routes have been established, even though groups including the Adventure Cycling Association (formally known as Bikecentennial) and individual states established their own cycling routes.
 
Today, Adventure Cycling Association assists State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) in the identification of proposed transcontinental routes and provides coordination for partnerships between non-profits and the DOTs while acting in an advisory capacity. Individual state organizations can make suggestions of proposed corridors to participating states, and most states, including Indiana have appointed officials representing biking and walking interests for their individual departments of transportation. (See HRTC article on Jerry Halperin, recently appointed as bicycle and pedestrian coordinator by the Indiana Department of Transporation).
 
In May, 2003, the effort to get a national system started back up. The Adventure Cycling Association provided staff support to an AASHTO subcommittee called the U.S. Bicycle Route Task Force. The first task was to identify what long distance routes and trails were already on the ground. Adventure Cycling submitted a proposed inventory of existing and proposed bicycle routes to AASHTO in March of 2006. This inventory became the foundation for creating a “conceptual” system of corridors for the entire U.S. The task force then created a national Corridor Plan that identifies 50-mile wide areas where a bike route might go and has gone through numerous revisions based upon input from transportation, bicycle and trail groups. The Corridor Plan, which was approved by AASHTO in October, 2008 is a flexible plan that will grow and change as groups like HRTC and Indiana DOT begin planning and identifying routes and trails for the national system.
 
HRTC, along with other groups, actively provides expertise in developing trails and bike routes across Indiana.
 
At HRTC, our fondest hope remains that we can materially assist in developing an Indiana component of bike routes in completing a truly transcontinental U.S. Bike Route System.
 
Article by Mario Vian, HRTC, with editing by Virginia Sullivan, Adventure Cycling Association.