Tag Archives: C&O Canal

C&O Canal towpath to become U.S. Bike Route 50, but will it be signed sufficiently?

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:

U.S. Bicycle Route 50Additional 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

H/T Southeast Roads group on Facebook

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Great Allegheny Passage, Pittsburgh to D.C. bike trails, nearly finished

Yurasko Bicycle LogoLast section of bicycle trail connecting Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., set to openPost-Gazette
On my list of things I really want to someday is the approximately 335-mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Tow Path. The Great Allegheny Passage is expected to be officially completed in June.

Mind the GAP & avoid getting in a rut

From the Allegheny Trail Alliance’s About the Trail page:

The trail has a packed crushed limestone surface for a smooth ride. Built mainly on abandoned rail beds, the trail is nearly level with the average grade of less than 1%. The steepest eastbound grade – 0.8% – is from Harnedsville to Markleton and Garrett to Deal. The steepest westbound grade is from Cumberland to Deal at 1.75%. Near the Big Savage Tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. From that point going east, the trail drops 1,754 feet in 24 miles to reach Cumberland and, going west, it drops 1,664 feet in 126 miles to reach Pittsburgh.

From Cumberland to Washington, DC, you drop 625 feet to sea level on the C&O Canal towpath. The towpath is overall much less improved than the GAP, as it was built for mules and not railroads. Be prepared for ruts, tree roots, mud and mosquitoes.

Hmmm, maybe I just psyched myself out. Still, it seems like a great adventure, perhaps one of the best challenges for an Eastern cyclist. BikeCandO.com has a Trip Planner if you are interested.

2012 story from The Post that I never got around to blogging: Biking the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal from Pittsburgh to D.C.

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