CLEVELAND, Ohio – Imagine starting a bike ride on the Towpath Trail and pedaling to Pittsburgh, Washington, DC or even Atlanta.
A new frontier is opening up for bicycle travel. A growing network of designated routes is pieced together across the country along lightly trafficked roads, trails, and bike paths by the same association that designates Interstate freeway numbers. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has established the American cycle route system in 1978. However, it has only recently begun to take shape.
There are over 17,000 miles of American bike paths across the country. Ohio has 1,523 miles, more than any state in the country.
In the age of the automobile, road trips have delighted millions of travelers with the lure of the open highway. As roads open up to bikes and trails expand, this sense of adventure is giving rise to a new kind of tourism. For people looking to spend multiple days on their bike, trail trips may become the new road trip.
If a person needs to drive from Columbus to Dayton, they can look on a map to find I-70 and follow the signs all the way. Similarly, a cyclist can find US Bicycle Route 50 on the map and follow the signs along the route to connect the two cities.
the Adventure Cycling Association describes U.S. bicycle routes as marked roads and trails that direct cyclists to a preferred route through a city, county, or state.
Over the past decade, the number of bicycle routes in the United States has grown exponentially. There are now over 17,000 designated miles across the country. Ohio has 1,523 miles, more than any state in the country.
This month, 1,177 miles of New America’s Bikeway was designated in Ohio. To put that into perspective, Jennifer Hamelman, USBRS coordinator and safety liaison for the Adventure Cycling Association, noted that “this hasn’t happened since 2011, when Alaska designated 1,414 miles.”
1) US Bicycle Route 21 North — Cleveland to Cincinnati
Major Trails Included: Ohio-Erie Trail and Ohio-Erie Canal Towpath
Future expansion: USBR 21 plans to connect Cleveland and Atlanta.
Within state lines, USBR 21 follows the Ohio Trail in Erie and connects the three major Ohio cities of Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Incredibly, over 70% of this route involves off-street trails. An absolute must for Ohio cyclists.
2) US Bicycle Route 21 South — Cincinnati to Aberdeen
Main trails included: Ohio River Trail
This route is an extension south from Ohio to Erie Trail (US Bicycle Route 21 North). It follows the Ohio River for over 50 miles and ends in the village of Aberdeen near the Kentucky border.
3) US Bicycle Route 25 North — Toledo to Cincinnati
Main trails included: Little Miami Scenic Trail, Great Miami River Trail
Future expansion: The route is expected to extend from northern Michigan to Mobile, Ala.
This long route includes the cities of Toledo and Dayton before ending north of Cincinnati. Much of the travel time is spent in rural countryside and small towns. It includes one of Ohio’s gems, the Great Miami River Trail.
4) US Bicycle Route 225 (Alternative)
This is an alternate route from USBR 25 via Piqua, a town of over 20,000. USBR 225 travels along the opposite bank of the Great Miami River.
5) U.S. Bike Route 25 South
This route mirrors US Bicycle Route 21 South and runs along the same corridor between Cincinnati and the village of Aberdeen.
6) US Bicycle Route 30 — Conneaut to Toledo
Main cycling routes included: North Coast Inland Trail
Future expansion: Planned to expand from the east coast of New Hampshire to Montana. A ferry crossing from Michigan to Wisconsin will be included.
The green sections of the map below are cycle paths. You will notice the major segments of the North Coast Inland Trail from Elyria to the small town of Elmore, Ohio. There are also two trail segments from Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway and the recently completed Lakeside Trail at Euclid.
7) US Bicycle Route 230 – Rocky River to Fremont
Route 230 is a scenic alternative to the previously mentioned Route 30. It hugs the Lake Erie shoreline as much as possible from Lake Road at Rocky River to Sandusky. It ends in Fremont, where cyclists can join US Bicycle Route 30 and continue to Toledo.
8) US Bicycle Route 44 — Massillon to Fort Wayne, Ind.
Main Trails Included: Sippo Valley Trail
Future Expansion: This route is planned to connect Ohio to Davenport, Iowa.
This bike path starts in Massillon at the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. It travels west on the Sippo Valley Trail, then joins rural roads, including the old Lincoln Highway, to Fort Wayne, Ind.
US Bicycle Route 50 – Indiana border to West Virginia border
Main trails included: Prairie Grass Trail, Camp Chase Trail, Alum Creek Trail, Wolf Creek Trail
Future expansion: This route will cross America with an eastern terminus in Delaware and a western terminus in California
This route crosses Ohio and allows riders to see the state’s forests and farmlands. Beginning in Jackson Township on the Indiana border, it passes through Dayton and Columbus to arrive in Steubenville on the West Virginia border. About 45% of this route is on cycle paths.
U.S. Bike Route 50A (alternative)
This alternate route north of USBR 50 provides additional trail opportunities for travelers along the Indiana to West Virginia route. Specifically, it includes the Genoa Trail, Hoover Scenic Trail, and Thomas J. Evans Trail.
Only state departments of transportation have the authority to ask AASHTO to designate U.S. bike lanes.
“The designation of these routes depends on the support of local authorities who own and maintain the roads or paths where the cycle paths are located,” said Cait Harley, Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation Manager for ODOT Program Management Office.
“That means local counties, cities, towns, ODOT and park districts must support the routes before ODOT can apply for an official designation,” she says.
Based on a national corridor plan developed by AASHTO and the Adventure Cycling Association, ODOT analyzed potential routes based on attributes such as road speed, traffic volume, presence cycling facilities, topography, continuity and community contribution.
Asked that Ohio had more USBR mileage than any other state, Harley attributed the milestone to two factors: long-term trail-building efforts across Ohio over the decades and more recent development. of a strategic bicycle network for the State.
“Local park districts have played a huge role in the planning, design, construction, maintenance, and management of trails across Ohio. Groups like the Ohio at Erie Trail coordinated their efforts and established a 326-mile, mostly off-street trail from Cleveland to Cincinnati. Regional trail groups like Central Ohio Greenways, Tri State Trails, Miami Valley Trails, the Cuyahoga Greenways and many others have supported the proliferation of regional trail networks,” Harley said.
She was quick to include the Clean Ohio Trails Fund, along with other state and federal funding, as contributing to the success.
Ohio’s long-distance trails provided a launching pad for the State and US bike route systems.
“The ability to align our USBRs with these trails really puts Ohio on the map and increases the potential economic impact of bicycle tourism across the country,” she said. “But our strategic cycling network is much more than tourism. The bicycle is an essential mode of transportation and we know that people in Ohio use bicycles for transportation, recreation and tourism.
In addition to the U.S. Bike Routes, there are also State Bike Routes that connect Ohio’s 17 largest population centers and destinations.
One of ODOT’s performance goals for its statewide bike and walk plan (Walk.Bike.Ohio), Harley said, is to increase the percentage of bike routes considered as comfortable for most adults. She said about 44% of bike paths in the state and the United States are considered comfortable for the general adult population.
The Adventure Cycling Association note on its USBR Resources Page that most bike routes in the United States are designed for adult, experienced cyclists defined as those 16 years of age or older, with at least a few years of cycling experience.
Organizations like the Adventure Cycling Association aren’t the only ones with big plans for our region. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has a big vision for a cross-country bike trail built primarily on former railroad corridors. Their proposed Great American Rail Trail crosses Ohio.
Another major Rails-to-Trails Conservancy proposal is the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, a 1,500-mile network through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.
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