Final Case Study for the National Scenic Byways Study the Impact of Bicycling on Scenic Highways: Planning Requirements That Affect Bicycle Use and Safety on Scenic Highways
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Final Case Study for the National Scenic Byways Study the Impact of Bicycling on Scenic Highways: Planning Requirements That Affect Bicycle Use and Safety on Scenic Highways

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    The popularity of bicycling in the United States continues to grow as people enjoy the freedom, exercise and pleasure of riding quiet rural roads and other safe places to ride. Most states have excellent and extensive networks of "backcountry" roads well suited to bicycling. Typically they are reasonably well-maintained roads with little traffic, great scenery adequate pavement widths and unspoiled, quiet surroundings: scenic highways! The development of state and national scenic highway programs could improve these routes and could result in the signing of thousands of miles of unexplored state and federal roads. It cannot be assumed, however, bicyclists will universally welcome the development of such programs. Bicyclists may be less than eager to share roads they currently enjoy with more traffic, especially large recreational vehicles. Greater exposure to traffic may make these roads less attractive to bicyclists and may increase the rate and incidence of bicycle-vehicle collisions. In turn, this may create the perception that bicyclists are a "safety problem" on scenic highways. This study, therefore, starts with the premise that the potential impact of increased bicycle use on scenic highways is of minor significance compared to the potential impact of scenic highway designation on bicyclists. Without some attempt to mitigate the consequences of the additional traffic scenic highways are likely to generate, bicyclists may lose many of their favorite routes. There is also anxiety that a scenic highways program could result in the destruction of the qualities that make the route scenic. In order to prevent this, some basic guidelines are recommended: a) The federal government role in scenic highways should be limited to technical assistance. Funding should only be available for planning and enhancement measures, such as signing and publicity. b) Scenic Highways programs should not be construction programs. Priority must be placed on scenic corridor preservation. c) Scenic Highways are recreational facilities, not transportation corridors. The design and character of the road, together with supporting literature, maps and signing should make this clear to users. i Further, the following criteria are used to determine the suitability and desirability of routes for bicyclists: a) A combined width for the right lane and shoulder of between 14 and 16 feet will enable motorists and bicyclists operate without conflict, provided traffic volumes and speeds are not too high. b) Frequent pavement maintenance, especially those areas where bicyclists ride, is essential. Driver alerting devices such as rumble strips should be restricted as they make the road unridable. c) As motor vehicle traffic volumes increase so does the need for more space in which bicyclists may operate. d) Traffic speeds should be restricted to 35 mph on the great majority of scenic highways. Exceptions should exist for routes that have a major transportation function. e) If design and geometrics make a route unsuitable for Recreational Vehicles either the route should not be designated, or RVs should be restricted. f) Bicyclists should be able to use tunnels, bridges and other potential barriers along scenic highways. Many creative solutions exist to facilitate continued access for bicyclists. g) Maps and informational materials should provide information to potential users of scenic highways on the quality and type of road they are considering using. If these criteria and guidelines are followed many of the concerns of bicyclists can be allayed. Wherever possible, representatives of the bicycle community should be involved in the development of scenic highways programs, and the needs of bicyclists must be integrated into the thinking of those managing the scenic highways programs.
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