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AASHTO Approves First New Bicycle Routes in 30 Years

11:50 AM PDT on May 18, 2011

In recent months, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has circulated a new roadway design guide that incorporates more bicycle facilities, though still leaving out many designs that are embraced by cities around the world for their improved safety outcomes. Separately, AASHTO recognized that it was putting its foot in its collective mouth last month when it objected to federal guidelines requiring “due accommodation” for cyclists -- it retracted that position. The organization is also producing a best-practices guide for states to implement SRTS projects.

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Is this a new AASHTO we’re seeing, a change from its car-centric ways? Indeed, we can add a new bike-friendly accomplishment to the growing list: AASHTO’s Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering has approved six new bicycle routes – the first official bike routes to be established in nearly 30 years.

The Adventure Cycling Association says securing route number approval from AASHTO is a required step for all U.S. Bike Routes and that AASHTO’s support was “crucial in earning the support of federal and state agencies, and provides a major boost to bicycling and route development for non-motorized transportation.”

Until last week, no routes had been approved since the 1982 designation of one in Virginia and North Carolina and another one in Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois. In 2003, AASHTO started to get serious about creating a National Corridor Plan -- an ambitious map of proposed bike routes criss-crossing the country. These six routes are the first concrete gain to come of that process.

Of the six routes approved last week, four are in Alaska. "We are excited to be able to promote bicycle tourism in the state of Alaska. We have fabulous vistas and low-traffic highways that beg exploration," says Bob Laurie, transportation planner and bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. "Connecting to Washington State via the ferry system and collaborating with Canada is next on our list."

The other two new bicycle routes: Bicycle Route 1 in Maine and New Hampshire and Route 20 in Michigan.

This is certainly good news for long-distance cyclists. Is it also a sign of a sea change within the country’s principal highway lobby?

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