Oklahoma State Representative John Talley of Stillwater introduced House Bill 1706 that would designate all of Route 66 in the Sooner State as a United States Bicycle Route. The lawmaker was given this idea by one of his Stillwater constituents.
“This bill would boost tourism in our state as it encourages bicyclists from Oklahoma as well as across the nation to explore historic Route 66,” Rep. Talley stated.
Should it be passed, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will have to sign off on an application requesting that the road be declared a U.S. Bicycle Route for the U.S. Bicycle Route System, a developing national network of bicycle trails that connect urban and rural communities. There are currently over 14,000 miles of routes that allow people to recreationally travel on bikes across 31 states and the District of Columbia.
Oklahoma has the longest continuous stretch of Route 66, and currently does not have a U.S. Bicycle Route. Joining the USBR will bring tourists into the state to bike down the old highway through quaint towns and wildflower fields.
Arguably America’s most loved highway, Route 66 was completed in Nov. of 1926. Unlike other U.S. highways at the time, Route 66 did not follow a traditionally linear course. Instead, its diagonal trail from Chicago to Los Angeles connected rural farming communities to major cities.
The COVID-19 pandemic had detrimental effects on tourism in Oklahoma. In 2018, the industry is reported to have employed more than 214,000 people. However, by late April last year, nearly 40 percent of individuals in tourism-related organizations were laid off, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If enacted, the bill will go into effect on Nov 1 with State Rep. Mike Osburn of Edmond serving as the co-sponsor.
Lon Haldeman, the co-owner of Pacific Atlantic Cycling Tours, a company that organizes coast-to-coast expeditions, has cycled Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles fifteen times.
“Oklahoma is really good because it’s almost 100 percent rideable across the state, plus it’s very historical and very safe,” said the cross-country cyclist in an interview with Outside Magazine.
According to Bike Oklahoma, it takes an average of seven days to cycle through Route 66 in Oklahoma. This week-long travel time allows cyclists to visit local museums, eat at roadside diners and purchase handicrafts.