Coming to Indiana (in late 2013?) is a cross state bike route like none other. To be known as United States Bicycle Route #35 (USBR#35), it will run from the Michigan State Line, into LaPorte County and then through Indianapolis to Louisville.
It will be different in two ways. One is that it is designed to link county roads, city streets, state highways, and rail trails into one seamless and continuous bikeway. Two is that the entire route will be officially designated by both local governments (and trail owners), and by the national highway planning and building professional group called the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO, “ash-toe”) . This group sets the standards for all federal, state, and local road designs, construction, and signage in the United States.
The map shows the proposed continuous route both northward and southward. The overlap at the Circle is simply because planning a north half and south half separately is easier than planning the whole route at once. Another criteria is to generally take people to the center of locales, in this case to the center of the state, in many cases to the center of counties, and thus to many county court houses.
Further criteria is that the route must connect to another state, and/or Canada or Mexico. The USBR #35 starts in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan at the International Bridge connection with Canada. From there, via Mackinac Island Ferry, the route mostly runs near the east shore of Lake Michigan, crossing into Indiana at LaPorte County Road #150 East. The Hoosier Rails to Trails Council is directed to bring the route from LaPorte County through Indiana to Louisville Kentucky. When approved, these two states will seed the first version of USBR #35. Sometime later, the route will traverse Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana, on its way to New Orleans and the Gulf Shores.
In addition, Most routes are chosen for some other reasons. One is to generally provide long (8 to 12 miles or longer) direct, and through segments which are well marked and easy to follow. Another is to balance between selecting roads with various features, such as berms and shoulders, lesser traffic (lesser than busier direct routes), roads accessing shops and supplies, roads to scenic and historic features, and others. All surfaces are paved (except for crossing some amount of short grass between a sidewalk and Missouri Street in Clarksville).
On the map, the red line denotes the southbound route. The blue line indicates the northbound route. The two colors are to benefit colorblind people (as do police lights).
Red and blue lines also show alternative routes which exist for various reasons. For example, because the Monon is closed after dark (in Carmel) and after midnight (in Indianapolis), the website shows an alternative on road route to the Monon. Also around Franklin, US Auto Route #31 is the alternative route because Franklin asked that US Bike Route #35 go through the community. The two alternative routes at Taylorsville direct cyclists away from the cloverleaf at Interstate #65, which some perceive as way too busy and quite dangerous. In Sellersburg the alternative route provides a detour from the congested area in downtown. The alternative route in Clarksville is on or next to Missouri Street between South Clarke Street and West Court Alley, right in the vicinity of very busy US Auto Route #31, approaching the Clark Memorial Bridge. (This section of Missouri Street is partially one way, thus requiring the cyclist to walk the bike to the U- shaped sidewalk just south of the West Court Alley intersection.) This alternative may cause one to roll their bike across some grass, but it is to avoid the designated route, when floods close this scenic portion of Riverside Drive.
Overall, USBR#35 is but one route of many proposals to comprise the United States Bicycle Route System which will eventually and systematically interlace the nation with coast to coast and border to border bikeways. Like the interstate highway system, which is also overseen by AASHTO, these routes will be numbered, will be officially supported and maintained at local and state levels, and will be mapped and publicized, if not signed, by numerous GIS and available means.
While AASHTO has designated a highway sign pattern for all routes within the system, signs themselves are not required. Although encouraged, signs are not required because the cost would kill the project by the local government, and/or the local support groups which are cooperating to bring the project, in all it phases, to completion.
The black sign is the general route sign in use today. This design is in the current planning book, The Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devises (MUTCD) 2009. (The green sign is proposed, but not yet approved by AASHTO, for inclusion in a future version of the MUTCD. Some early sign versions have a black sign with the number on top. The MUTCD regulates all road signs in the United States.
Currently the USB Routes are being developed by many people, groups, and agencies, which are operating in five levels, sometimes simultaneously, and sometimes quite separately, but all within a large program of prerequisites.
At the national non-government organization level, two groups are working together to create a conceptual system of national interlaced bikeways. AASHTO, the apex of authorizing and legitimizing the specific routes, is working with Adventure Cycling, the national expert about routes and touring, to set some general corridors, 40-50 miles wide.
To move from broad corridors into focused routes, at the state level, Adventure Cycling is engaging people, from statewide non-government organizations (NGOs) (In Indiana, the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council, and Bicycle Indiana), to select a proposed route through a given corridor from one side or end of a state to the other (through Indiana from the Michigan State Line at LaPorte County via Indianapolis to Louisville, Kentucky, and vice versa). This map is that proposed route.
At the local level, the state NGOs seeks bike route tips and suggestions for a suitable route from local cyclists, cycling groups, and cycle shops.Also, some state riders will ask locals to ride, check out, and proof the route segments and surfaces for a cross county cycleway.
At the local government level, once the overall route is proposed, each segment must be endorsed by the city or town council for local streets, by the county commissioners for roads, by the state highway agency for state auto routes, and by boards of directors of trail groups, or departments of governments owning trails. This involves the state NGOs some local supporters (individuals, and/or local groups) to coordinate the process of contacting the appropriate government officials. These endorsements all together will create a complete folio of supporting petitions across a state.
Note that this current map is a proposal, and therefore subject to change, if local advocates deem a segment needs to be altered.
At the state government level, the locals and state NGO cyclists work with the state bike/pedestrian coordinator, and others in their (Indiana) department of transportation. The goal is twofold: both to get permission to use state auto routes for segment of the national bike routes; and to get an approval that the entire folio is in order, and has all needed endorsements across the state.
From the state DOT, the folio is then sent to AASHTO for final approval to become a recognized national bicycle route.
Once all five levels are completed for Indiana Bike Route 35, then each state southward can add itself to complement the route.
While the amount of time needed to complete the United State Bicycle Route System is not known, during 2011 many states have been working on many segments. Spring and Fall are times when AASHTO receives route applications. Thus one is likely to learn of route approvals in late Spring and late Fall.
For overall progress and to plan trips go to Adventure Cycling at www.adventurecycling.org/
Oh, and Yes!, with its coming you can plan your 2012 cycling adventure escape now (don’t wait) across Indiana and Michigan (and some other states).
If you do pedal on any current and/or proposed US Bicycle Route, please let us know. We would be glad to print and/or upload your cyclelogue.
For further information and questions, contact the Indiana Coordinators for the US Bike Route System generally, and USBR#35 specifically:
Mario Vian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Richard Vonnegut (email@example.com)
Hoosier Rails to Trails Council
PO Box 402
Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-0402