An exciting initiative that is gaining momentum across the nation is the Adventure Cycling Association’s U.S. Bicycle Route System. The project looks at existing transportation corridors that once identified and connected, would result in a nationwide bikeway network similar in concept to interstate highway system.
Adventure Cycling Association, based in Missoula, is working with a number of states such as Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Oregon, and Washington, on planning, routing and overall implementation of the National Corridor Plan into on-the-ground routes and trails.
I'm happy to see Spokane on the map. In the Inland Northwest region, we have four great routes and trails that all connect across Idaho and Washington and are attractive recreational opportunities for tourists: The trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and the Hiawatha route, Centennial Trail, the Fish Lake Trail, and the Columbia Basin Trail. The Columbia Basin trail eventually links to the John Wayne Trail to Seattle.
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. U.S. Bicycle Routes are intended to link urban, suburban, and rural areas using a variety of appropriate facilities. These routes are nominated for numbered designation by State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and are catalogued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) through the Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering (the same committee that assigns numbers to U.S. highways and interstates).
In 2003, an effort to reinvigorate the U.S. Bicycle Route System began when AASHTO formed a Task Force on U.S. Bicycle Routes. The Task Force is made up of transportation agency staff, federal highway administration, and bicycling organizations, including Adventure Cycling Association (who began providing staff support to the project in 2005). They quickly began working on developing a map called the National Corridor Plan. The first phase was to get a picture of what already existed and then begin defining numbered corridors for multiple cross-country routes that linked destinations, cities and transportation hubs.
Fast forward to October, 2008. AASHTO's Board of Directors passed a resolution in support of the National Corridor Plan and the Task Force went to work on creating a new Application, completed in May, 2009. After that, work on implementing the corridors into on-the-ground routes was ready to begin.
But in order to keep and hone our competetive edge (while cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver aggressively expand their bicycling networks) we need be innovative in our active transportation assets. That said, I can't wait to see how this develops.