U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS)

Did you know about the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS)? It is a proposed network of regional bike routes, sort of like a bicycle equivalent of the U.S. highway system. The USBRS was proposed in 1982 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), for the purpose of “facilitating travel between the states over routes which have been identified as being more suitable than others for cycling.”  For a route to be officially designated a U.S. Bicycle Route, it must connect two or more states, a state and an international border, or other U.S. Bicycle Routes.

Two routes were mapped in 1982: U.S. Bicycle Route 1 and U.S. Bicycle Route 76. U.S. Bicycle Route 1 runs from North Carolina to Virginia. U.S. Bicycle Route 76 runs from Illinois through Kentucky to Virginia. Unfortunately, funding and federal enthusiasm for the USBRS dried up shortly after 1982, and a comprehensive national network of bike routes exists only on paper.

According to Good Magazine, Americans made 4 billion biking trips in 2009, compared with just 3.3 billion in 2001. The idea that cycling is a viable form of transport is becoming more and more normalized in the U.S. What role does the forgotten U.S. Bicycle Route System play in this? U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recently announced on his blog that AASHTO has approved the first new routes in the national bike system in more than 30 years. The new routes include the expansion of USBR 1 to Maine and New Hampshire, USBR 20 in Michigan, and USBRs 8, 95, 97, and 87 in Alaska.

The routes are nominated for numbered designation by State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and are cataloged by AASHTO.  While a number of states are interested in implementing U.S. Bicycle Routes, State DOTs primarily focus on highway, bridge (and to a lesser extent) railroad operation. With looming budget problems in many states, USBRs are simply not a priority. A lot of the effort towards the realization of a USBRS  has been taken on by volunteers working with non-profits like Adventure Cycling Association. Check out their weekly updates about the expansion of the U.S. Bicycle Route System here.

Images courtesy of Adventure Cycling Association and Wikipedia

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