We have a national highway system, state highway systems, and a multitude of local highways and byways already, but they are all geared for use by automobiles. What about cyclists?
The proposed USBRS is a national interstate network of bicycle routes, linking urban, suburban, and rural areas using appropriate roads for cycling, one which builds on the original two bicycle routes established in 1982 (U.S. Bike Route 1 in Virginia and North Carolina, and U.S. Bike Route 76 in Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois). After the designation of these two bicycle routes, no additional routes were nominated until 2003.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) formed a Task Force on U.S. Bicycle Routes in 2003, which is made up of federal highway administration officials, bicycling organizations, and transportation agency staff. The purpose of the Task Force is to “facilitate bicycle travel on appropriate roads, paths and highways over routes that are desirable for interstate bicyclists. A route should form continuity of available roads through two or more states connecting and traversing areas of scenic, cultural, and recreational interest.”
One of the biggest players in building the USBRS has been the Adventure Cycling Association, which took on duties of staff support for the project in 2005. Since then, they have taken an inventory of currently existing bicycle routes, as well as developing a “National Corridor Plan”, which defined numbered corridors for multiple cross-country routes linking destinations, cities and transportation hubs. AASHTO passed a resolution in support of the National Corridor Plan in 2008, and has now created a process for states and regions to apply for official bicycle route status with the USBRS.
In May, for National Bike Month, Adventure Cycling raised over $30,000 to support the USBRS, and thirty states are working on U.S. Bicycle Routes in their respective areas. Once complete, the USBRS will be the world’s largest official bicycle route network, with over 50,000 miles of routes.