It is expected to take a few years, but Baraboo could become a stop on a system of bicycle interstate routes spanning the United States — sea to shining sea.
Baraboo Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hardy said he hopes to see a leg of the planned U.S. Bicycle Route 30 between Madison and Reedsburg come through Baraboo. He said he envisions remodeling the former pumphouse along the Baraboo River at Hill Street as a picnic shelter and gateway to the city for bikers, hikers and canoeists. The route would help boost Baraboo’s tourism economy, he said.
An online map provided by the group Adventure Cycling Association shows a web of existing and proposed U.S. bicycle routes across the country. Bike Route 30 begins on the Atlantic coast in Maine and heads west across the northern tier of states. It crosses Lake Michigan via ferry into Milwaukee, then heads northwest across Wisconsin to Winona, Minn. and points west.
The US Bicycle Route System is a cooperative effort among bike advocates, state and local governments and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said Tom Huber, the pedestrian and bike route coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. AASHTO is a professional organization that sets standards for construction of everything from sidewalk and trails to major highways, he said.
The biking advocacy group Adventure Cycling Association already has developed a system of bike routes across the nation, Huber said, but it is limited. For example, ACA’s only route through Wisconsin goes across the northernmost tier of counties and only takes riders through towns smaller than 5,000 people.
"(ACA) wanted a system that connected communities better than their system," Huber said. "Their system, they wanted to avoid larger communities just because of the existing road system deteriorated as you got into large metro areas, it was harder to route cyclists safely."
The idea behind the U.S. Bicycle Route System is to provide the resources to build quality bike routes between larger communities, he said.
Bike educator Robbie Webber said she worked with the DOT as an independent consultant to develop the details of Route 30 through Wisconsin. Virginia already has developed a system of bike routes with Ohio and some other eastern states moving forward on the effort.
"Think of it as bicycle interstates," she said. "Right now, most of these do not exist on the ground."
An advantage in developing BR 30 is that there are existing bike-accessible trails along about 75 percent of the propose route, Webber said. Bike routes can either be on trails or along selected roads.
One proposed path for BR 30 through the area enters Sauk County at Sauk City and follows county roads north of the village to Reedsburg. Bikers on that route can take advantage of the paved bike path along Highway 12 for much of their travel, Webber said.
Another route brings riders across the Merrimac Ferry and then north to Baraboo before traveling on to Reedsburg.
Webber said she believes the possible route through Baraboo has advantages over the one that goes through Sauk City.
"You get to Baraboo there’s a lot of services, you can get food, there’s a bike shop, there’s a hotel," she said. "It’s a good destination for various tourist attractions."
Huber said he expects it to take a year or two before the state makes a final decision of the best path for BR 30 and presents it to AASHTO to be recognized as a designated bike route.
Hardy said whichever route is finally selected through Sauk County, local bicycle enthusiasts and the tourism economy will benefit.
"It will (bring) cyclists close to the area," he said. "There will be a spur that will go to Baraboo from Sauk City or go to Sauk City from Baraboo, however it works out."
Huber said he is retiring soon and the DOT is not likely to hire a replacement bicycle coordinator immediately.
He suggested people interested in following efforts to complete the US Bike Route 30 contact Kevin Hardman, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Federation also can be found online at www.bfw.org.
Information about the U.S Bicycle Route system and maps are available through the Adventure Cycling Association at www.adventurecycling.org.
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