Ambitious cyclists looking to traverse the state on two wheels can now look to a national map to find safe routes that span Idaho to Arizona and Colorado to Nevada.
The United States Bicycle Routes System recently added 550 miles of Utah bike routes to its map, bringing the total for the state to about 960 miles.
The Utah Department of Transportation, the department’s Move Utah program and Adventure Cycling, a national advocacy organization, worked together over the past four years to develop the Idaho to Arizona path, which is made up of streets, highways and trails. The Colorado to Nevada route was added in 2015.
The groups based routes on safety measures -- such as how many vehicles travel on roadways that run along the proposed routes -- where cyclists were already riding, points of interest and the location of bike-friendly shops according to UDOT active transportation manager Heidi Goedhart.
“This gives us an opportunity to showcase our landscapes to people who want to bike or walk,” Goedhart said.
The routes already exist in Utah, but they’ve been added to Adventure Cycling’s map and will have signs installed to guide cyclists across the state.
The designation of specific bike routes can also help prioritize funding for developing and constructing better bike paths, said Chris Wiltsie, program director of advocacy group Bike Utah.
“We need to take it from just signage to having high-class [paths],” Wiltsie said.
Most people still drive or fly between states or across the country, but the national map of trail systems is designed to help the more active travelers.
“There’s a lot of people who want to travel the U.S. and experience the landscape in a different way,” Goedhart said.
Long-distance cyclists can also help boost tourism in rural areas of Utah, Wiltsie said, many of which are struggling as fossil-fuel energy plants and other industries close. If more tourists travel through, more jobs could be created.
“This gives them an alternative,” Wiltsie said. “A healthy alternative.”
More Utahns have gotten out on bikes since the pandemic began, Goedhart said, as indoor activities were curtailed to prevent spreading COVID-19. UDOT recorded more than 200% more cyclists on many trails in the last year.
“There’s been a lot of people getting off stationary bikes in the gym and getting onto real bikes,” Goedhart said.
Though not all states have routes listed on the map, ambitious cyclists from Salt Lake City are already able to traverse more than 1,000 miles on connected routes across Utah, Nevada and California to San Francisco then up the California coast to the Oregon border.