Adventure Cycling Association, a Missoula, Mont.-based group that organizes cycling tours and produces maps and guidebooks for cyclists, is coordinating the effort to create maps showing pedal-powered tourists how they can safely enjoy traveling the Mother Road.
Established in 1926, Route 66 was a key highway from Chicago in the Midwest to the Los Angeles on the West Coast. It crosses Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Adventure Cycling is collating information gathered by cycling groups in each of the states and will produce a series of Route 66 maps suitable for planning cycling trips, said Virginia Sullivan, the Association’s special projects coordinator.
The New Mexico Touring Society has recently completed mapping a bicycle-friendly version of Route 66 from Glenrio, just east of Tucumcari, to just west of Gallup. The route takes into account the pre-1937 section of Route 66 that veered north near Las Vegas and Santa Fe.
Club volunteers spent nearly a year gathering information about road conditions, scenic attractions, campgrounds, roadside services, grocery stores and advice on traveling through tribal areas.
Volunteers cycled or drove the route, looking for remnants of the original road that were still safe for cycling. In areas where the road was eroded, inaccessible or too exposed to heavy traffic, the club chose an alternative that offered a safer cycling experience, said Barbara Snow, the chair of the NMTS Route 66 committee.
“In designing the New Mexico portion of the route, we felt that it was important to avoid biking on the interstate highways as much as possible,” Snow said.
In other areas, the bike route varies from historic Route 66 to offer a more scenic riding experience.
For example, the stretch of Route 66 between Grants and Gallup didn’t have cycling-safe roadways, so the bike map follows N.M. 53 through the Malpais area, past the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano and El Morro National Monument, where visitors can see inscriptions carved by Spanish colonial leaders Juan de Oñate and Don Diego de Vargas.
The route along Central Avenue through Albuquerque presented challenges too, Snow said. Although Central Avenue boasts numerous classic Route 66 neon signs and motels dating from the heyday of the Mother Road, portions of the road are comparatively narrow, congested and tricky for cyclists. The bicycle tour map follows streets with bike lanes that offer easy access to shops, restaurants and other attractions on Central.
Throughout the mapping effort, NMTS president Chris Marsh communicated with officials in small towns and tribal areas along the route to get their input regarding cyclists visiting their communities.
Map committee members also met with mapping specialists from Adventure Cycling and held conference calls with folks in other states along the route to coordinate their efforts.
Marsh recently submitted the mapping information to the New Mexico Department of Transportation in hopes that it may be designated as an official US Bicycle Route.
Adventure Cycling’s Sullivan said the New Mexico information will become part of a comprehensive route published in a series of 400-mile section maps printed on waterproof, tear-proof paper, which will made available in 2014.
“It takes a long time to produce maps,” Sullivan said.