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Designation of Route 66 in Oklahoma as a US Bike Route

In 1978 the United States Bike Route System (USBRS) was established to promote bike travel by linking urban, suburban, and rural areas. To date routes have been established in Virginiaand South Carolina; Kentucky, and Illinois; Michigan; Alaska; and in Maine and New Hampshire.  US Bike Routes (USBR) are nominated by the state department of transportation to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO.) The Association sets standards for highway system development, and is responsible for the numbering of national highways and interstates.  In 2008 AASHTO approved a National Corridor Plan for Bicycling Routes that was developed by the Task Force on US Bicycle Routes.  Route 66 from Illinois to California is one of the nationally significant corridors in the plan.

Route 66, the mother road, is a popular tourist attraction that brings in visitors from all over the country and the world seeking an authentic, Americana experience.  In its heyday, the 2,400 mile long highway linked the urban Midwest to the scenic Southwest and the California coast.  Unlike other cross country highways, Route 66 has and will continue to inspire blogs, websites, books, movies, songs, and even television shows romanticizing the adventures and traveling opportunities along  the way.  Oklahoma is proud to host the most remaining drivable miles, nearly 460 miles.  The “father of Route 66”, Cyrus Avery, was a Tulsa citizen and Oklahoma Transportation official.  It is only fitting that Oklahoma takes the lead among eight states in establishing Oklahoma’s portion of Route 66 as a US Bike Route.

In spring 2011, Adventure Cycling as a member of the AASHTO’s Task Force on US Bicycle Routes, began working with Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition to map a proposed Route 66 bike route through Oklahoma.  As Adventure Cycling’s number one priority, this is part of a larger effort for mapping a bike-friendly Route 66 through all eight states.  Based on the proposed route a draft map is being prepared, and will be shared with local jurisdiction/agencies, Route 66 stakeholders, and the biking community for their input.

To complete the application process, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) will require letters or resolutions of support from the various jurisdictions associated with the route.  Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition is currently contacting each agency, providing them with a draft route map, and asking for their support.  Letters or resolutions will be collected by OBC and forwarded to ODOT.  Once there is an acceptable route, and it is approved by ODOT, Oklahoma Department of Transportation will then forward a route designation request to AASHTO.

The State of Oklahoma, local communities and businesses, and Oklahoma cyclists are all stakeholders and have interest in the designation of USBR 66.  Items for consideration:

  • The designation of US Bike Route 66 will have minimal impact on Oklahoma State’s or local municipalities’ budget.  In fact, riders will add to the governments’ coffers through lodging tax, sale taxes, and other taxes such as the transportation tax (airport taxes.)
  • US Bike Route 66 will be under the jurisdiction of Oklahoma State, the county, or a local jurisdiction.  AASHTO specifically declined in establishing road standards for US Bike Routes, differing to each state’s own requirements or engineering judgment.  Although signing, route improvements, and bicycling facilities would be preferred, they are not required in order for a route to be designated. 
  • This is an opportunity for communities and other stakeholders to define the best route through their area and to publicize their services and tourism opportunities.    Regardless of Route 66 being designated as a US Bike Route, it will be mapped and included on the Adventure Cycling Route 66 Map. Bicyclists are already riding Route 66, and with a published map, numbers will  increase. 
  • Most bicycle touring occurs in small groups of 1-15 riders.  A community may experience 1,000 riders over the course of a season, April – October.   This differs from an event ride where hundreds descend on a community for lunch, or an overnight stay affecting road travel, restaurant service, etc. 
  • Services required for touring cyclists are similar to what other travelers need: food, shelter, an occasional bike repair shop, a store for supplies, locatable tourist sites, good maps or signing, a laundromat, or medical facilities along the route.  Most touring cyclists travel light and are used to fewer comforts provided in urban settings. 
  • US Bike Route 66 can complement an already well-established and promoted Route 66 tourism industry. Biking tourists tend to be heritage tourists seeking out authentic experiences such as a Route 66 ride. As the cyclist takes the trip at a much slower pace, this provides ample opportunity to visit local museums, purchase tourist items or locally made handicrafts, resupply, and sample the local fare.  Whereas the average motorist may spend an average of 5 - 11days traversing all of Route 66, a bicycling tourist will spend  an average of 7 days just traveling through Oklahoma alone.

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