New USBRS Report Highlights Promotion Successes

September 22, 2016 - Ginny Sullivanis Adventure Cycling's Director of Travel Initiatives

Adventure Cycling has released a new report by Toole Design Group, Best Practices for Mapping, Signing and Promoting U.S. Bicycle Routes, which is now available on the USBRS webpages. Transportation and tourism officials, bicycle advocates, and volunteers will find useful tips and case studies to use as models for future U.S. Bicycle Route promotions.

The report is presented in three topic areas:

  • Survey results of state agencies and bicycle advocates that synthesize the present status of maps, signs, and promotional events for designated U.S. Bicycle Routes.
  • Case studies from five states that have mapped and signed U.S. Bicycle Routes and/or have implemented successful promotions. These case studies provide best practices other states may apply to their own promotions. 
  • Best practices in signing and promoting bicycle touring networks outside of the U.S. Bicycle Route System. This section also includes information regarding an organizational structure from the EuroVelo System, managed by the European Cycling Federation that could be a management model for the USBRS.

Surveys: The “Who” and “How” of the U.S. Bicycle Route System

Surveys were sent to state transportation officials, tourism officials, bicycle advocates, and volunteers that have designated U.S. Bicycle Routes in their states. The goal was to find out the status of the maps, signs, and promotions in addition to how each entity felt the roles and responsibilities for promoting the system should be distributed.

Overall, the surveys revealed agreement that ...

  • departments of transportation (DOTs) should provide printed maps and take the lead on signing efforts;
  • that regional and state tourism agencies should take on a greater role in marketing and promoting the routes in their state;
  • and that state tourism agencies need to be educated and engaged about the value of bicycle tourism and U.S. Bicycle Routes in their state.

Case Studies: Learning From the Best

The case studies highlight best practices from Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Washington and show how these states are providing wayfinding and promoting their U.S. Bicycle Routes. Trends and notable highlights include:

  • Promotion begins prior to designation: Foundational work for promoting the route occurred during the route development process when meetings were held with local chambers or tourism contacts, public work officials, and other stakeholders. These contacts resulted in relationships that later translated to support and promotion of the route.
  • Signing U.S. Bicycle Routes: Case studies indicate that volunteers can play a role in preparing sign plans and can help communicate with local agencies to support the placement of the USBR signs. DOTs can split the cost for installing signs by collaborating with other groups and jurisdictions. By working in collaboration to pool sources of money, signs can be purchased in volume and costs can be reduced. States that have successfully signed routes made a plan for maintenance of the signs. Also, officials need clear guidance about signing requirements and early communications with stakeholders provide an opportunity to resolve potential co-branding and co-signing issues. 
  • The USBRS can be improved and promoted locally: Some states developed and provided marketing tools for local tourism agencies and town officials. Bicycle-friendly business and community programs help communities create an action plan to connect to a USBR and improve walking and biking conditions and services. 
  • State tourism’s role: Tourism officials need to be educated about the benefits of bicycle travel and tourism, and providing them economic impact information is one key way to do this. Once on board, tourism must have access to resources to develop a marketing strategy for bicycling and USBRS promotions. Collaborations between DOTs and tourism agencies is an emerging opportunity.
  • Advocacy groups can find a niche in promoting bicycle tourism and the USBRS: Advocates are all about building relationships. In doing USBR outreach and promoting the concept of bicycle tourism as economic development, advocates can create lasting connections with local governments, tourism, and other stakeholders. 

Best Practices: Future Sustainability of the USBRS

The report also examined other bicycle route networks to learn how they are organized and promoted. These include a state network (Oregon Scenic Bikeways), a Canadian provincial network (La Route Verte), and the European system (EuroVelo Network). Some of the best practices and lessons learned from promoting, funding, and coordinating these bicycle route networks include:

  • Develop an organizational model that will ensure the maps, signs and other promotional information are maintained. Develop policies and/or interagency awareness so that when the primary advocate of the USBR leaves, the network continues to be maintained and promoted.
  • Have detailed information available online. Provide high-quality navigational maps, information about services along the route, and guides and make them easily available online. 
  • Bicycle tourism should be seen as economic development. Programs that help local communities take advantage of the bike tourism opportunities benefit bike route users, bring tourism dollars into the economy, and also benefit the residents of those areas.
  • Promotion is most economical when it is done across the board for all types of bicycling. This approach takes advantage of certain economies of scale, as well as the reality that many bicyclists enjoy a variety of different bicycle modes. 
  • Make use of public transportation that accommodates bicycles. Both train and bus services that accommodate bicycles provide transportation options that make bicycle travel easier, safer and more comfortable.

This report provides a continuation of best practices for the U.S Bicycle Route System. An earlier report by Toole Design Group published in 2013, U.S. Bicycle Route System: Surveys and Case Studies of Practices from Around the Country, focused on planning and designation models. This report highlighted innovative tools DOTs and advocates used for route development and designation and showed collaborations between state agencies and local partners. You can read the blog post that summarizes the report or visit the U.S. Bicycle Route System website to access both reports.


Top photo of USBR 45 in Minnesota by Kerri Kolstad | USBR 35 in Michigan by Chuck Haney | USBR 10 in Idaho by Cynthia Gibson | Bottom photo of EuroVelo signs by Neal Fisher


May is National Bike Month! The U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) has resources to make your May and everyday more bicycle friendly. Support our efforts and donate $5, $10, $50 to help build the largest bicycle network in the world! Donate Today!


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