United States/Bicycle Networks

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OpenStreetMap in North America (Canada, USA, Mexico) now contains no international bicycle routes. However, a lengthy mountain bike route, the private Adventure Cycling Association (ACA)-sponsored Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) touches the US/Mexico border in New Mexico, traverses multiple states in the US and crosses the international border at Alberta, continuing to Canada's Banff National Park. So, while it might seem correct to add network=icn or network=ncn to GDMBR, neither are correct tags, as both imply a paved route=bicycle, and this route (correctly tagged route=mtb) is ~90% unpaved (and again, route data are private). GDMBR displays in Lonvia's mountain bike route renderer as a mountain bike route crossing the international border.

A few ACA routes in the US (cycle_network=US:ACA) are in OSM as regional routes (network=rcn), as they both span entire states and cross state borders. These are neither international, national nor quasi-national (network=ncn: USBRs + three quasi-national routes get this tag). Most ACA routes are not in OSM, and those few which are entered may be incomplete or obsolete. If/as ACA routes are added/improved (because OSM obtains permission, something it currently does not have), some may correctly promote to network=ncn as quasi-national or network=icn if they cross an international border. Please see Quasi-National section and USBRS Discussion page.

One quasi-national route, West New England Greenway (WNEG), is identical to USBR 7 in all three of the states where these two routes are coterminous, so USBR 7 and WNEG are distinguished with two different super-relations. A potential new international route may include USBR 7 plus a Route Verte segment in Quebec, Canada between Montreal and the northern terminus of USBR 7 in Vermont, when it would then make sense to create a new international super-relation (network=icn). OSM awaits more discussion of whether a Route Verte segment in Quebec will be included in such a potential new international bicycle route, as well as what this route might be named.

There appears to be an international bicycle route known as International Selkirk Loop linking Idaho, Washington and British Columbia. According to Idaho Transportation Department: "The portions of the route on Idaho's state highway system are coincident with two scenic byways, the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway and the Panhandle Historic Rivers Passage. The latter comprises the southern leg of the International Selkirk Loop. How the route will be co-signed has not yet been determined." OSM awaits more definitive route data to enter what would be its first network=icn route=bicycle in North America.



The U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) began to be established as a national numbered bicycle network in the 1970s. Circa late 1970s/early 1980s, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) formally inaugurated the USBRS, which originally consisted of two routes:

  • USBR 1 in North Carolina and Virginia and
  • USBR 76 in Virginia.

The System languished between the mid-1980s and 1990s. A "National Corridor Plan" was developed during the 2000s, allowing each of the fifty states of the US to harmoniously develop USBRs using a cohesive national numbered grid of planned route corridors and a regularized numbering protocol using the following rules:

  • East-West routes are even-numbered,
  • North-South routes are odd-numbered,
  • Spur/belt/alternate routes are preceded by a hundreds-place digit or suffixed with "A".

May 2011 saw the first major expansion of the nascent System. Five new parent routes, two child routes, and one alternate route were created, along with modifications to the existing routes in Virginia and the establishment of USBR 1 in New England. For a full history of the route by route growth of the System, please see this wiki's Discussion page's "History of the USBRS, route by route" section.

USBRS (numbered national) routes use tag network=ncn in route relations + ref=USBR # to denote the route number + cycle_network=US:US.

The older black and white M1-9 "numbered national bicycle route" sign shield (seen to the right and above) was MUTCD-approved from the 1970s through 2013. The newer green sign (seen to the right) is also M1-9 and will replace the black and white M1-9 in the next MUTCD edition. In the meantime states get waivers from FHWA to use the green sign. It is "interim official" and will become official on the next pass. It is AASHTO approved. The color change to green is to better differentiate it from other black and white route number signs and to align it with the color of Bike Route signs. The new sign also has the "US" imprint to show it is different from quasi-national, state and local level bike route signs (see below).



OpenStreetMap in the US contains three significant quasi-national bicycle routes, not strictly part of the USBRS:

ECG and MRT traverse several states over several thousand miles/kilometers. Hence, these two quasi-private (neither government-sanctioned nor approved by AASHTO, but public data) bicycle routes are determined to be so "national in scope" that OSM's US national cycleway network includes them as named (not numbered) routes, tagged network=ncn. While shorter than ECG and MRT, WNEG connects Canada (and Montreal via Quebec's Route Verte) to the Atlantic Ocean at ECG, so WNEG also elevates to quasi-national (it is also quasi-private, not private). Since the US has only one national numbered bicycle network (the USBRS, tagged cycle_network=US:US), quasi-national US routes should be distinguishable from these. As each quasi-national route is an independent US national-scope route, none are members of any particular national cycle network, so ECG, MRT and WNEG are tagged cycle_network=US. It is easy to see if a US national-scope bicycle route is national or quasi-national: national routes (USBRs) display numbered shields, quasi-national routes display acronyms.

The ncn routes (USBRs + ECG + MRT + WNEG) traversing a single state (1A, 8, 10A, 11, 20, 21, 23, 35A, 37, 45, 45A, 50A, 70, 79, 87, 90A, 95, 97, children) are contained in single relations. The ncn routes traversing multiple states (1, 7, 10, 35, 36, 50, 76, 90, ECG, MRT, WNEG) are contained in super-relations, each of which contains the statewide relations. Numbered network=ncn routes in the USBRS are signed with one of the two kinds of MUTCD-approved "numbered national bicycle route" signs (M1-9, seen above). Named network=ncn routes not in the USBRS (quasi-nationals ECG + MRT + WNEG) use custom signs displaying names or acronyms of the kind seen to the right.

More historical background and information on quasi-national routes, as well as potential methods by which regional and quasi-national routes can be modified, grow and promote (possibly to USBRs) can be found in this wiki's Discussion page. Before modifying or promoting existing US quasi-national or regional bicycle routes, please read this Discussion page to better understand some of the issues involved.

State and Regional

A growing number of states (Delaware, New York, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio, Massachusetts, Oregon...) have their own numbered state bicycle route networks. In Ohio, some counties have begun erecting numbered state route signs. Signs may vary from the MUTCD-approved "numbered state bicycle route" sign (M1-8, seen to the right), and some local networks may use this same oval. Delaware's statewide network uses this M1-8 sign, while Maryland uses the D11-1 generic "Bike Route" sign seen below. Statewide cycleway networks use network=rcn in route relations + cycle_network=US:XY where XY is the ISO 3166-2:US code (same as postal abbreviation) for the state.

This (network=rcn) includes private (non-state/non-public, proprietary and copyrighted) named regional routes like Adventure Cycling Association's Transamerica Trail and Underground Railroad Bicycle Route (which might be entered as quasi-national should OSM obtain permission from ACA): even though these are multi-state routes, each state-at-a-time segment is correctly denoted with network=rcn. Only if and when one or more state segments in a named regional route becomes a USBR ("goes first") might a named network=ncn super-relation be created and state segments be promoted into it. In the (unlikely) event all states simultaneously receive approval for a contiguous single USBR, then creation of a named network=ncn super-relation can proceed directly to a numbered network=ncn super-relation.

Emerging in the United States are cycle_network=US:Z values for public, quasi-private and private regional cycleway network routes, where Z is a brief name or abbreviation for the name of the regional cycleway network. For example, public routes in the National Park System network (like Natchez Trace Parkway) get cycle_network=US:NPS, while (the few entered) private routes in Adventure Cycling Association's network get cycle_network=US:ACA. Use good judgement entering route data, as they may be copyrighted; only enter route data compatible with OSM's license and/or with explicit permission. Public (often government-published) route data can always be entered into OSM, quasi-private route data can usually be entered, but private route data should not be entered (a few ACA routes have been, but OSM has no explicit permission).


generic lcn=yes

Some cities (Washington, DC; Portland, Oregon; Berkeley and San Francisco, California; Binghamton, New York; Sandpoint, Idaho) and counties (Santa Clara, California; Travis, Texas) have a local cycle network comprised of bicycle boulevards, dedicated cycleways, bike lanes and other roadways, which may or may not be designated as specific (numbered) routes. These signed routes use network=lcn + cycle_network=US:XY:Locality (where XY is the ISO 3166-2:US code (same as postal abbreviation) for the state and Locality is the name of the county, city or locality) in route relations if specific routes have been designated (via either the M1-8a local bike route sign oval seen here or a county/city/local government published bike route map). Otherwise, if only the D11-1 generic "Bike Route" sign seen below is posted without labeling or numbering of routes, OSM ways so signed as local bike routes should be tagged lcn=yes, either directly or as members of a network=lcn relation.

Use network=lcn in other "local" contexts such as a university (public or private) bicycle network, a localized small-to-medium-sized area with established paved bicycle routes (e.g. a private ranch), or a corporate campus such as an expansive office park (e.g. large movie studio) with thier own bicycle routes. In these cases, tag each route with cycle_network=US:XY:Locality:Network_Name where XY is the ISO 3166-2:US code for the state, Locality is the name of the county and Network_Name is the name of the local cycleway network. However, be careful to avoid ambiguity with other local networks which may be named similarly; the cycle_network= tag should assure the named network is unambiguous.

Proposed networks (at any level)

If a cycleway is part of a network with a proposed route numbering (such as proposed routes in the USBRS or the CycleNet bicycle route numbering protocol proposal in Santa Cruz, California) tag state=proposed in the route relation, which causes dashed (rather than solid) lines to render in the Cycle Map layer. Proposed routes do appear in Cycle Map layer (as dashed, not solid lines) but do not appear in Lonvia renderings.

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