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Bicycling on Federal Lands: A Win-Win Investment

Guidance to Federal land managers on how to promote bicycling facilities as important transportation and recreation links to connect gateway communities, visitor centers, campgrounds, trailheads, and other attractions.

See complete document: Guide to Promoting Bicycling on Federal Lands

From Central Federal Lands Highway Division, Federal Highway Administration

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Federal Lands Highways Program (FLHP) recognizes the value of bicycling facilities as important transportation and recreation links to connect gateway communities, visitor centers, campgrounds, trailheads, and other attractions on Federal lands. FLHP partners with agencies such as the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to plan, design, construct, and rehabilitate highways and bridges on public lands.

"Expanding and promoting bicycling on Federal lands is an effective transportation planning tool."

Federal Lands at the crossroads

Federal Lands including National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and the Bureau of Land Management public lands are at a critical juncture. Visitation is growing in some areas and transportation improvements are needed to support increased usage. At the same time, federal land managers must plan carefully to preserve the historical and natural treasures that visitors come to see. Can managers find cost-effective solutions that expand access while preserving lands for future generations?

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US Forest Service planners and regional partners are working to make bicycle friendly connections in Lake Tahoe. With the completion of the Lake Tahoe Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, many trail projects are underway to complete links in the system.

 

Bicycling programs are a smart choice. Expanding and promoting bicycling on Federal lands is an effective transportation planning tool. Bicycling can enable visitors to experience public lands in a manner that: enhances visitor experience; helps preserve sensitive natural, cultural and historic resources; reduces pollution and relieves traffic congestion; conserves fuel; improves economic development opportunities for surrounding communities; supports health-minded individuals; and gives visitors without access to a private automobile real travel choices.

Moreover, bicycling programs are typically a low-cost investment compared to other transportation infrastructure improvements, and they make a difference:

  • At the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, agency planners created the “Bike Aboard!” program to encourage visitors to use bicycling trails in conjunction with the scenic railroad. Bike Aboard anticipated 2,000-3,000 riders in the first season, but had more than 5,000.
  • The National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C. receives 25 million visitors each year to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and many other dispersed historic sites and parklands in the heart of the city. Park staff use bicycles to patrol and monitor the sites and offer interpretive bicycle tours.
  • In Utah, the Slickrock Mountain Bike Trail generates $1.3 million in annual tourism receipts for the city of Moab (a town of less than 5,000 people).

Why now? The time is right to promote bicycling:

  • SAFETEA-LU expanded federal funding opportunities for bicycling programs.
  • Agencies need viable options to expand capacity and relieve congestion with minimal environmental impact.
  • Successful local and regional models are available to replicate around the country.
  • The public wants recreation and travel options that reduce fuel consumption.

Why should Federal land managers be interested in bicycling? Bicycling networks and programs can assist land managers by:

  • Reducing transportation-related pollution and impacts on the environment;
  • Providing better access to remote/sensitive areas;
  • Enhancing the quality of visitor experiences;
  • Dispersing visitors away from heavily used developed areas;
  • Reducing automobile-related congestion and parking shortages;
  • Promoting good health among the participants; and
  • Creating a more balanced transportation and recreation network to preserve the landscape
    for future generations.

It is our goal to further advance and promote safe non-motorized networks, especially for bicyclists, on Federal lands. It is understood that bicycles are not appropriate everywhere, and issues such as bicycle/traffic safety, limited right-of-way, funding, wildlife and environmental impacts, and agency policies are acknowledged and discussed. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible & Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) Federal transportation legislation states that in the planning, design, and operation of transportation facilities, bicyclists and pedestrians should be included as a matter of routine, and the decision to not accommodate them should be the exception rather than the rule (FHWA, 2007).

What Resources are Available? The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Federal Lands Highways (FLH) Program commissioned a “Guide for Promoting Bicycling on Federal Lands”. The Guide is a reference for Federal land managers, with resources for planning, promoting and managing bicycling. Moreover, by providing a vision of bike-friendly public lands, FLH hopes managers actively promote the use of their lands to the 87 million Americans who bicycle for recreation.

See complete document: Guide to Promoting Bicycling on Federal Lands

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