In addition to a large numbered highway system, the United States has a modest system for numbering bicycle routes. Starting with U.S. Bike Routes 1 & 76, the system is on some maps, but not posted too often on the routes themselves. Bike Route 1, travels up and down the eastern seaboard — I’ve seen a sign for it near Mount Vernon at the southern intersection of US 1 and VA 235.
Here is a brief introduction of the system from the Adventure Cycling Association‘s “U.S. Bike Route System: Surveys and Case Studies of Practices from Around the Country” (PDF):
The U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) is a developing national network of bicycle routes that connects urban, suburban and rural areas using a variety of cycling facilities. State departments of transportation (DOTs) nominate routes for numbered designation through the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
The first U.S. Bicycle Routes were established in 1982, then the project lay dormant for over 20 years. In 2003, in an effort to reinvigorate the U.S. Bicycle Route System, AASHTO formed a Task Force on U.S. Bicycle Routes comprised of transportation agency staff, Federal Highway Administration, and bicycling organizations, including Adventure Cycling Association, which began providing staff support to the project in 2005.
This month, a new route number was approved by AASHTO at the for the Maryland portions of C&O Canal Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage – U.S. Bicycle Route 50. From the meeting minutes of Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering (PDF) meeting in Denver earlier this month:
Additional research on the Wikipedia entry for United States Numbered Bicycle Routes suggests that Bike Route 50 is proposed to be a transcontinental route from Cape Henlopen, Del. all the way to San Francisco, concurrent American Discovery Trail. It appears that the Maryland portion is the first to officially designated. I suppose the designation was earned because the two trails form a continuous route across the entire state or perhaps, Maryland was merely the first to officially make the request to AASHTO.
I hope that Maryland and the National Park Service team up to sign Bike Route 50 well. One of my frustrations as a cyclist is the haphazard nature of signing bike routes. In some ways, it has improved in recent years (i.e. New Shirlington Connector Signage), but I believe a numbering system at the national and local levels is warranted. Pennsylvania seems to do a pretty good job of it with their lettered bike routes(pahighways.com), utilizing the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices Bike Route signs that Richard C. Moeur has posted on his Signs for Bicycle Facilities page. With all the wonderful bike paths in BeltwayLand, especially in Arlington, Alexandria and the District, route markers would be very helpful, particularly for our growing cycling population.
ADDITIONAL VIEWING AND READING
U.S. Bicycle Route System – Adventure Cycling Association