August 7, 2013
Toole Design Group recently completed a report, entitled U.S Bicycle Route System: Surveys and Case Studies of Practices from Around the Country (PDF). The report compiles survey responses from state departments of transportation (DOTs), bicycle and pedestrian coordinators, volunteers, and bicycle and trail advocates working on the project. After the survey was completed, Toole Design conducted in depth interviews with eight states, documenting the implementation methods each state used to plan and designate their U.S. Bike Routes (USBRs).
Toole Design and Adventure Cycling staff determined that a key outcome would be to gauge basic awareness of the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). We also wanted to know if states knew about the tools available on our website, if they had the internal staff and financial resources to pursue designation, and what they perceived as the main challenges and barriers to implementation.
The first step was to survey the state DOTs and the initial results were exciting. We anticipated we would have to work very hard to get states to answer the survey, but this turned out not to be the case. Forty-seven states plus the District of Columbia answered the survey, with California, Hawaii and Montana opting not to answer (you’ll have to read the report to find out why). In addition, 83% were very aware of the USBRS and all were at least “somewhat” aware. A majority of states were aware of the tools and resources on our website and 81% said they’ve done some work to implement a U.S. Bike Route in their state.
Challenges and barriers tended to be staff time and financial resources for signs. Despite these challenges, many states stated that they planned to pursue designation and also sign their routes. While liability concerns were mentioned, it wasn’t cited as a major obstacle for most coordinators. For us, seeing how the case studies laid out methods that states can use to overcome these challenges was really interesting.
The case studies included some states with designated routes and others that are still completing the AASHTO application. States with designated routes include Michigan (USBR 20 & 35), Maine (USBR 1), Kentucky (USBR 76) and Minnesota (USBR 45/MRT). Other states developed sound processes worth noting, these states include: Ohio (USBR 50), Louisiana (USBR 90), Oklahoma (USBR 66), Wisconsin (USBR 30).
An additional case study analyzed rural bicycle level of service (BLOS) measures. The original BLOS model was developed to evaluate bicycling conditions on city streets, taking into account road width, pavement conditions, and speeds and weighted these measurements in order to create a score. For rural conditions, the standard BLOS model often doesn’t work due to lack of data and consistent measurements. Toole Design highlighted several methods for evaluating roads, including a rural BLOS developed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and provided some helpful recommendations.
At Adventure Cycling, we’re excited to point states toward these case studies as examples for implementing U.S. Bicycle Routes. There are several effective methods which will help states define a process that will work for them.
This report focuses on the first two phases in the implementation process: planning and designation. Promotion, which includes mapping routes for the public and signing the routes, will be addressed in a future report we hope to have available next year. At present, three states are signing U.S. Bicycle Routes and more states are working on sign plans. These will provide excellent case studies and will address the last piece in the USBRS puzzle.
Photo of USBR 20 sign at Michigan's Frankenmuth Bridge by Kerry Irons
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). 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.