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Feds approve USBR 10, Washington’s first national bike route

Image from WA Bikes
Image from WA Bikes

The Feds gave USBR 10 the green light. I’ll let Washington Bikes take this one for a victory lap. They earned it!

From a WA Bikes press release:

Bicycling in the nation’s #1 Bicycle Friendly State just got a boost: official designation of Washington’s first interstate bike route in the nationwide US Bicycle Route System. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has approved official recognition for USBR 10. It will be designated in future updates of the highway design manual followed by transportation planners and engineer at all levels of government, providing the basis for maintaining and improving the route over time.

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The 407-mile route follows the northern, cross-state-highway corridor, State Route 20, from Newport, Washington, at the Idaho border to Anacortes, Washington’s international ferry terminal. The USBR 10 interstate route will eventually connect all the northern tier states, linking Washington state to Maine and running from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.

Bike Travel a Booming Business

“This bike route designation is an example of what can be accomplished by working with partners like Washington Bikes and local communities,” said WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson. “It’s estimated by the Outdoor Industry Association that Washington could see as much as $650 million annually from bike travel statewide. These are benefits that will be shared throughout the route.”

When fully developed, the United States Bicycle Route System will contain more than 50,000 miles of interstate bicycle routes crisscrossing the country and providing route guidance to touring cyclists, commuters and recreational riders.

The USBRS effort in Washington state is being coordinated by Washington Bikes (formerly known as the Bicycle Alliance of Washington), in partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation.  The project depends on volunteers from Washington Bikes to collect and harmonize input from bicycle clubs, tour groups, cities, tribes, counties and regional transportation organizations.

Washington Bikes executive director Barb Chamberlain said, “Washington Bikes works to promote bike travel across the state, and the USBR mapping effort is helping us develop detailed information on a fantastic set of major connections. Identifying the best route provides value not just for those who go on bike tours of Washington state, but also for those seeking everyday bicycle connections town to town.”

Chamberlain also serves as co-chair of Gov. Inslee’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which includes promotion of Washington’s outdoor economy as one of its focus areas.

Echoing Sec. Peterson’s emphasis on the economic value of bicycle travel, Chamberlain noted, “Bike travel is particularly good for small towns, since bike travelers are fueled by calories and stop many times along the way. We just helped publish a guide to multi-day bike tours in the state, Cycling Sojourner Washington; some of those tours make use of parts of USBR 10 and all of them identify great places to stop, stay, and spend. Bike-friendly towns that welcome visitors are good for the people who live and ride there every day, too.”

Along the route, local businesses and communities have recognized the opportunity, adding cyclist campsites and other services. North Cascades National Park has added two bike-in, no reservation campsites at Newhalem and Colonial Creek Campgrounds, and refurbished Bingham Park in Sedro Woolley will include bike-in campsites. Tonasket has long supported touring bicyclists with free wi-fi and showers at their information center, and Okanogan is rebuilding its riverfront Lyons Park to accommodate cycle-in touring. Transportation planners are integrating the new USBR 10 route into local planning to align and enhance bicycle touring in their individual jurisdictions. Washington Bikes will connect with local destination marketing organizations, businesses, and communities along the route to help them include USBR 10 in their promotional materials and reach out to welcome biking customers and visitors.

Mapping the Route

Washington Bikes board member and route coordinator John Pope noted that Washington started with what may be the most mountainous and scenic interstate bicycle route in the state through what some call the “North American Alps.”

The scenic alpine climb over Rainy and Washington Passes in North Cascade National Park will inspire and challenge cycling tourists. USBR 10 summits Loup Loup Pass near Twisp, scales the Okanogan Highlands at Wauconda, and crests the Kettle Range at the 5,575-foot Sherman Pass—the highest paved mountain pass in the state, and crosses the Selkirks at Little Pend Oreille Lakes.  It follows the Skagit, Methow and Okanogan Rivers, crosses the Columbia River at Kettle Falls, and follows the beautiful Pend Oreille River from Ione to Newport.

Route suggestions from area bicycle clubs and the Adventure Cycling Association, along with input from city and county engineers, introduced many quiet and beautiful byways to this route. Staying within the SR 20 corridor but selecting quiet back roads when the highway becomes narrow or overly trafficked, the route offers miles of quiet pastoral cycling mixed with incredible views and scenic roads.

WSDOT Special Programs manager Paula Reeves coordinated the state effort. Washington Bikes’ former executive director Barb Culp, who still volunteers with the organization, worked to obtain route approvals from Okanogan cities. Pope did the route verification, drafted the nomination, and harmonized route options with road managers/engineers, bike clubs, and regional transportation organizations.

Future Routes

Plans are under way to start the mapping and nomination process for other significant route corridors in the state. Bicyclists interested in helping with the process may contact Louise McGrody, Washington Bikes, [email protected], 206-224-9252 ext 303.

The nomination by Washington has helped the Idaho Transportation Department further their efforts on USBR 10 across the panhandle and opened valuable links with route organizers in British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Oregon.  Washington Bikes and WSDOT will continue to support this route with travel tips and information and work toward future signage.

Facts About USBR 10

·         Total length of the primary route: 407 miles
·         Length including all alternate and side routes: 579 miles
·         Elevation climbed and coasted: Over 25,000 feet
·         Washington counties along the route: Skagit, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille
·         Cities and towns along the route, west to east: Sidney, BC, Anacortes, Burlington, Mount Vernon (by spur), Sedro Woolley, Lyman, Hamilton, Concrete, Rockport, Marblemount, Newhalem, Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp, Okanogan, Omak, Riverside, Tonasket, Wauconda, Republic, Kettle Falls, Colville, Park Rapids, Tiger, Ione (by spur), Usk, Newport and by juxtaposition, Oldtown, ID
·         Mountain passes: Rainy Pass, Washington Pass, Loup Loup Pass, Wauconda Summit, Sherman Pass (5,575 feet—highest paved mountain pass in the state), Little Pend Oreille Summit
·         Rivers along the route: Skagit, Methow, Okanogan, Columbia, Pend Oreille
·         Scenic Byways: North Cascades Scenic Byway; Cascade Loop; Sherman Pass Scenic Byway; International Selkirk Loop

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10 responses to “Feds approve USBR 10, Washington’s first national bike route”

  1. Josh

    Hooray for Washington Bikes and official Bike Route designation!

    I’ve ridden that route several times from the Sound to Idaho, unquestionably one of the most scenic inland routes around.

  2. Brian

    Yay!!! :) Hopefully we will have a bike trail network from Seattle to connect to USBR 10 in the future.

    1. Charles B

      Indeed, one would hope that route 87 found at the link below would be very high on the priority list:


      The scenic routes are nice for sure, but routes connecting the large population centers should come at higher priority in the future. Over all good news though, I hope to hear more from this project soon.

      1. Todd

        I don’t think you should worry. Fact is, there’s already a bike path that goes over I-90 now. Even then, if one is to ride the whole USBR route, it’s going to take you at least a few days. Right now, there is a bike path that takes you through the county of Snohomish and they are working on plans to connect it to King County. The ride from Seattle to Sedro-Woolly is roughly 6-8 hours taking paved trails and back roads.

        Looking ahead, I argue it’s a bigger deal to connect the Centennial Trail to this route. But getting Skagit County to do it will be a bit trickier as they don’t have the tax base like Snohomish does. Snohomish has Boeing, among other things, in its backyard to help the bottom line.

      2. Josh

        USBR 87 would be a great route to expand — it already exists in Alaska, from Skagway to the Canadian border, and many parts of the Washington segment already exist.

  3. So they made it official… but what does that really mean to the average rider?
    1. A “named” route? Does this mean printed maps? How about signs with maps on them along the route?
    2. Better signage?
    3. Bike-specific designs/amenities when improving the roadway? (wider shoulders, bike lanes, sharrows, etc.)
    4. Bike-specific maintenance of the route? (not letting the shoulders/bike lanes degrade while the rest of the road surface is maintained, SWEEPING the bike area, etc.)

    Why is this a good thing?

    1. Gary

      This is a good thing because the towns along the way are adding signage, and no reservation bicycle camping locations. I’ve bicycle toured and this is key, at the end of the day there is no real knowing how far you are going to make it, so having options for places to legally camp is wonderful.

    2. Josh

      If nothing else, it prevents WSDOT and local DOTs from assuming bikes don’t use the route.

      That’s been an issue for many transportation projects over the years, without doing any real outreach or research, bikes simply aren’t included in the scope of a project because “everybody knows that nobody rides there.”

      “Everybody,” in this case, being the motorists in charge of improving throughput for cars.

  4. […] extends the sidewalk which becomes an accidental bike lane. The Federal government has officially designated a US Bike Route in Washington state. And, the Seattle Bike Blog sheds a little more light on the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge options […]

  5. Downdraft

    What a great thing…bike travel/vacations are exploding…but today there is a Biker who at this very moment is biking from Seattle to BOSTON…on behalf of a fallen biker of yesteryear who traveled this route to raise money for her youth group…she subsequently passed from cancer, but this Biker now follows the same route on his way to Boston (a coast to coast trip) on behalf of his friend who died, and for cancer research by Mayo Clinic. He also uses his friend’s “Bike Log” from that trip..he took time from his business, designed and had constructed a special bike just for this venture…named it “Ridge-runner” after his grandpa who ran moonshine in Louisiana during prohibition years..he seems to average from 75-90 miles a day, and on one of those days he reached slightly over 100 miles…WATCH for him, encourage him…he’ll be the one with a sore butt, a first time long distance biker who is probably asking himself why in his late 40s he is doing this…but he is a tough one, good legs, muscular, determined…and a sore butt…mostly, PRAY for him…may God Bless him.

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