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November 23, 2010

Take a trip on Route 66

The Adventure Cycling Association hopes  bicyclists will embrace the spirit of The Mother Road — historic Route 66 — with its next long-distance cycling route.

Bicycle Route 66  will follow the famous corridor from Chicago to Los Angeles on roads appropriate for cyclists and, when possible, on sections of the historic highway.

“Route 66 was the overwhelming favorite among our members for a new long-distance route,” Carla Majernik, Adventure Cycling’s routes and mapping director said in a press release. “It’s a legendary corridor and, for our route network, a critical link through areas where we have no routes, such as Oklahoma.”

Preliminary development of Bicycle Route 66 will begin this winter, with the publication of maps expected in about 3 to 4 years.

Adventure Cycling will have a bit of a head start in Illinois. The League of Illinois Bicyclists already has developed a Route 66 Trail from downtown Chicago to the Old Chain or Rocks Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi and connects Illinois with  St. Louis.

In addition, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recently released the Route 66 Trail Concept Plan (PDF file), which goes into detail about the trail and what should be done to make it more bicycle friendly. Bicyclists in Macoupin and Montgomery counties who are trying to reopen two unused lanes of a four-lane alignment between Staunton and Litchfield should be encourages by this passage from the concept plan:

Original 1954-1956 concrete pavement exists in the corridor from Litchfield to Staunton, and ten miles of this high-quality highway remnant from Litchfield to Mt. Olive have been included in the National Register of Historic Places. The northbound lanes of the four-lane “bypass highway” have been closed to vehicle traffic for over fifteen years.

In 2003, a bike trail feasibility study was conducted by Macoupin County in conjunction with the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program National Trails System Office. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Greene and Bradford, Inc. coordinated project work.

The unique remnant highway at this location poses various options for the development of an off-road bike trail. It offers an experience to ride or walk on an original section of Route 66. This would become a showcase facility and, importantly, would preserve and restore a section of historic pavement that continues to deteriorate.

The partnership among local jurisdictions and state and federal agencies, formed to conduct the feasibility study, continues to carry the project forward. Sponsorship and a more formal partnership by local entities will be needed. Preserving this historic segment of original pavement and developing a unique bicycling facility is a major opportunity.

Adventure Cycling’s Bicycle Route 66 route also would go through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona before winding up in Santa Monica, Calif., the western end of Route 66.

Lon Haldeman, an experienced Route 66 bike tour leader and a Race Across America co-founder, said in the group’s press release, “This route can be done as a camping tour in roadside campgrounds, however there are many unique motels along the route which make this a good credit card tour type route. Eating in the old cafes and diners is part of the charm.”

You can find out more about those old cafes, motels and other unique attractions at sites such as Historic Route 66 and Route 66 News.

“The vision for Bicycle Route 66 is the same as the original vision for Route 66, which was to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities,” Ginny Sullivan, special projects director for Adventure Cycling, said in the press release. “Bicycle Route 66 will be a perfect choice for traveling cyclists looking to explore the American heartland’s natural beauty, history, and funky out-of-the-way places.”

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2 Comments »

  1. [...] an earlier post, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Route 66 Trail Concept Plan earned a mention [...]

    Pingback by Roger Kramer Cycling: The Blog Page — November 23, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

  2. [...] month, the Adventure Cycling Association announced plans to create Bicycle Route 66, which will generally follow the historic Route 66. About the same time, I wrote about how Illinois [...]

    Pingback by Roger Kramer Cycling: The Blog Page — December 16, 2010 @ 12:45 am

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