Byways 2021: A project of the Scenic Byways Coalition and America’s Byways Resource Center

Blue Highways

Bicyclists know roads more intimately than most other users. Pedestrians may travel more slowly than cyclists, but also tend to go far shorter distances. Motorcyclists enjoy the same open-air feeling, but at 60 M.P.H.-a speed that even Lance Armstrong can’t hold for very long. The 15-20 M.P.H. speed of bicyclists allows us to truly experience the road-to hear the wind through the soybeans, to see the sun reflected off the husks of the corn, to listen to our own labored breathing as we crest yet another hill. And we feel every bump and crack in the pavement along the way!

Nothing spoils a good ride more than taking a turn onto an Interstate or multi-lane highway. Though they get you to a destination quickly, the force of wind as truckers speed past you, and the tire-deflating debris along the side of the road, can quickly suck the joy out of a leisurely ride. The importance of America’s scenic byways to bicyclists can’t be overstated. The ability to ride, for miles at a time, accompanied only by fellow travelers on adventures of their own (as car drivers on scenic byways tend to be), is a precious one.

What the League of American Bicyclists would like to see on the nation’s Scenic Byways is more signage, and if possible a paved and frequently swept shoulder for bicyclists to use. Bike parking at rest stops, overlooks and information points is also much appreciated.  Because Scenic Byways are chosen based on one or more archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities, they are perfect for cyclists who are looking to take a leisurely route. However, even on these gorgeous roads, cyclists can still struggle to be visible to drivers.

By transforming Scenic Byways into complete streets, with room for all users, the program would continue to enrich the lives of all Americans.

16 Votes | Average: 4.31 out of 516 Votes | Average: 4.31 out of 516 Votes | Average: 4.31 out of 516 Votes | Average: 4.31 out of 516 Votes | Average: 4.31 out of 5 (16 votes, average: 4.31 out of 5)
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Andy Clarke
About the author: Andy Clarke was appointed to the position of Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists in April of 2004 after successfully leading efforts to create, interpret and implement the various transportation programs that are available to improve conditions for bicycling and walking as the League’s State and Local Advocacy Director.

Read more about Andy Clarke

9 Responses to “Blue Highways”

  1. Derrick Crandall Says:

    From the very beginning, byways were envisioned as routes designed to be enjoyed by travelers in cars and RVs, on bikes and motorcycles, in buses and more. The allowable projects specified in ISTEA included better shoulders, climbing and passing lanes and more — to allow safe travels by multiple modes.

    Byways have stories to tell and the stories can and should be enjoyed by cyclists as well as motorists. Moreover, it seems to me that future byway journeys may emphasize a combination of travel modes, differing by segment. Imagine the added intrigue to kids to be able to ride for one or more of the days while traveling through great country — perhaps cutting off from the road for a trek through a forest, along a river and then rejoining the rest of the family at a campground or trailhead.

  2. Nathan Caldwell Says:


    To help ensure the place of bicycles along America’s Byways, the League might want to work with the Byway’s program to develop biking itineraries for them, like the Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning to develop birding intineraries accessed from the Get Trip Ideas/Explore Other Activities Tab for Bird Watching on Road Biking is one of the activities listed under this tab. Instead of just being referred to the Byway’s web page, which is what happens now when one clicks on a byway listed under this activity, a click would take a rider to a biking itinerary/advisory for the byway, provided by a local riding group. As a bicyclist (mtn and road0 myself, I’d find that very useful, and another way to bring a new partner into the Byways community.

    Nathan Caldwell
    FWS Byways Coordinator

  3. Eric J. Hamilton Says:

    A proposal for a bike and pedestrian alternative was an important part of the Mohawk Towpath Byway planning process. Narrow local road are a part of the Byway story an will be a feature of the Byway’s recreational resources. The best way to experience the Byway story will be on a bike. I look forward to working with our local cycling public and other trails users to see this vision become a reality.

  4. Lou Bresee Says:

    A Biway should be a route with a story to tell and the infrastructure to allow that story to be told and heard. For bicyclists the most important factor is appropriate width and well maintained shoulders. When good shoulders exist both the motorist and the bicyclist can safely appreciate what the Biway has to offer with a minimal amount of interference. Signage is most helpful in that it reduces the probability of a sudden unplanned stop that can create a safety problem for any mode of transportation.

    When a Biway becomes truely bicycle friendly one can be sure that itinearies will be developed and the word will spread that it is a good place to ride.

    The star system did not do what I expected and my vote should have been 5

  5. Wolfgang Ehle Says:

    As a longtime bicyclist and the German tourism rep of the States of Oklahoma and Kansas I very much appreciate the trend to provide us pedalists with the (safe) space we need. I particularly like the idea of having a bicycle lane alongside the Scenic Byways (which are a great invention anyway).
    We get quite a number of requests from bicyclists and can hardly provide them with the specific information they need.There is room for improvement. The other point is, as mentioned in Andy’s article, to have a better signage. It is worth to take look to Europe. Along the big rivers, like e.g. the Danube or the Rhine, you find professionally maintained cycle lanes and (almost) perfect signage.And you find many many cyclists - which in turn has led to a growing demand for overseas offers of comparable quality! So there is a market!

    NB: My vote would be 5 stars - but it didn’t accept me, too.

  6. Terry Maxwell Says:

    Andy: bikes on byways is a natural. But, one challenge with this is when DOTs impose mandatory bike lanes or 5 additional feet when making improvements along historic roads or roads designated because of their narrow, winding character defining features. This can have an adverse effect on the road’s intrinsic qualities. Just something to be careful with.

  7. Bobby Koepplin Says:

    Andy, ND laws allow bikes on roadways. I concur with prior replies as well as that not all roadways are designed for bikes but I can also appreciate what counties are faced with respect to limited funds. They are unable to maintain their existing 24 foot wide asphalt roadways much less widen and or install separate bike paths.

    Even with these considerations we are hosting an ~150 mile cycling tour to promote the Byway and raise some funds. We have involved local government and law enforcement to assist in the event.

    We do not own our Byways and having raised over $1.7 million for interpretation, a small visitor center and visitor amenities we are working had for local sustainability much less build new trails or routes.

    I would like to encourage bicyclists to contact their local Byway Committees. Bring along your ideas but also bring along funding and people resources.

  8. Bill Kusner Says:

    Part of the Red Rock Scenic Byway in Arizona is currently being improved by ADOT. The improved road will have a wide shoulder to accomodate biking. Unfortunately ADOT does not have money in their budget for sweeping the roadway (the byway portion of road is in an unincorporated community). Further, grants are not available to do maintenance of improvements that are made to roadways.

    We are working with the business community to help bridge the gap for such funding, but we hope that the biking community steps up to the plate to make the byway user friendly to the bikers.

  9. louretta wimberly Says:

    I stringly agree that our byways need biking space. There are so many moore things a biker cand and see on the byways/trails. Stop and visit small communites that are roots of our byways. Take time to view special cits that missed in a car. Additionally , is good for our health and well being.