A combination of roadways and trails make up US Bicycle Route 50, a 313-mile stretch that runs through the heart of Ohio — and the only bicycle path officially recognized by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
But the dozens of bicycle trails in Lorain County are not part of the national network, leaving cross-country cyclists unaware of all that exists to see and do in Northeast Ohio, county commissioners argue.
They passed a resolution July 11 urging ODOT to include the three established bike routes in Lorain County on a map.
The longest of those routes is the 13-mile North Coast Inland Trail, which passes through Oberlin on its way from Kipton to Elyria.
To local leaders, cycling represents an opportunity to net tourism dollars.
“Serious bicyclists spend a lot of money when they go on these trips and make these ventures so we want everybody to clearly know that these designations are here in Lorain County,” said commissioner Matt Lundy.
Lorain County Metro Parks director Jim Ziemnik said he found a cycling tour from Chicago to New York that costs $5,000 per person. The route takes riders straight through Indiana and Columbus along USBR 50, completely bypassing Northeast Ohio.
ODOT should help showcase the trails that bring bikes to our scenic lakeshore vistas and charming towns, he said.
“Oberlin is so nationally renowned. There are so many things to see and do that are historically significant. It’s a sin that we don’t have these designations. We need people coming through,” he said. “We want them to stop, eat, and spend money.”
The initiative has been on Ziemnik’s radar since 2015.
Every municipality along the route must approve the designation and get support from state legislators. Oberlin city council has yet to sign off.
Once approved, signs will be placed along the trails that are reminiscent of the federal highway system, but on a smaller scale.
Ziemnik hopes to see communities using signage to stir revenue and tourism by attaching destination markers such as “Allen Memorial Art Museum in a quarter mile.”
“When you’re on the federal highway, you see those types of signs. It becomes a destination. After biking 50 miles, every cyclist is going to want to stay at the Oberlin Inn,” he said.
To date, more than 13,000 miles of U.S. bicycle routes have been approved in 25 states.
When complete, 50,000 miles will be listed on an interactive map at www.adventurecycling.org.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.