May 30, 2013
As we work to develop the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS), we are always looking for ways to connect cyclists to the most beautiful and scenic places on the continent. Many of those places are on public lands. Riding through vast forests and gorgeous river bottoms, or gazing at mountainous peaks covered with snow, lonely expanses of dessert with uniterrupted views of the horizon, or historic monuments on civil war sites — these are the places we dream of viewing from the seats of our bicycles.
But access to these lands isn't always as easy as it should be for cyclists. Luckily, there is the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Technical Assistance Center (TRIP TAC) which is working to change this, one Park Unit and federal land area at a time.
The TRIP TAC provides technical assistance to federal land managment agencies (FLMAs) looking to provide alternative transportation on federal lands. This includes bicycle access and bicycle related projects, and programs. Recently the TRIP TAC announced some new and exciting developments. They are gearing up to provide an on-line computer course entitled, "Considerations for bicyclists and pedestrians connecting to, or using federal lands" and the course description reads: This course will assist federal land managers who are interested in improving or integrating bicycle and pedestrian networks located within federal land units, as well as the transportation networks that connect federal lands to gateway communities. I have no timeline of the availability of the online training course, but we think it's great to see federal land agencies taking the opportunity to learn best practices and set successful examples.
In additioin, TRIP TAC has release some great reports which are available on their website. One immediately caught my eye — "Economic Benefits of Alternative Transportation Systems on Federal Lands." While the report covers a broad range of transportation alternatives, from bike share to transit programs, I was heartened to see this report. Adventure Cycling would like to use this report as a starting point for a more focused study on how bicycling economically benefits National Park units, possibly in partnership with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). Now both our organizations share a national agreement with the National Park Service and we are both anxious to make a grand statement about why cycling is important to National Parks and communities around them.
Another great tool available for FLMAs (and cycling advocates) is a report entitled, "Good Practices to Encourage Bicycling & Pedestrians on Federal Lands" which is a consortium of case studies that show how some Parks and FMLAs have built bicycling trails, bike share programs, and cycling programs into their management practices.
Together, these two documents provide some great resources to work with and there are many more tools available on TRIP TAC's website. I know I will need to spend some time digging around for ideas to share with the many volunteers working with FLMAs on U.S. Bicycle Routes. Do you have a project in mind or a land agency that could use some ideas for solving a cycling or alternative transportaiton issue? Be sure to send them to the TRIP TAC website and/or put them in touch with the Help Center (877) 704-5292; firstname.lastname@example.org.
All in all, the TRIP TAC is an important resource that assists FLMAs interested in providing access to cyclists and pedestrians. It's a shame that they will only be around one more year. Alas, the program was not funded in the new federal transportation bill, MAP 21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). With enough funding to stay open through next fall, we can only hope our national leaders find a way to keep this important resource open for business.
Top photo by Rebecca Gleason, middle photo courtesy of Zion Cycles, bottom photo by Laura Stanley
BUILDING THE U.S. BICYCLE ROUTE SYSTEM is posted by the Travel Initiatives Department and focuses on news related to the emerging U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). During National Bike Month, Adventure Cycling is raising funds to support the creation of this national network of bicycle routes. This year, we hope to raise $100,000 by May 31. Donate today!
The USBRS project is a collaborative effort, spearheaded by a task force under the auspices of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Members of the task force include officials and staff from state DOTs, the Federal Highway Administration, and nonprofits like the East Coast Greenway Alliance and Mississippi River Trail, Inc.