McClory bike path may become part of cross-country system

The Robert McClory Bike Path through Lake Forest and Lake Bluff may join the growing list of nearly 6,000 miles of U.S. Bike Routes criss-crossing the country.

Both the Lake Forest City Council and Lake Bluff Village Board recently approved measures to be sent to the Illinois Department of Transportation to allow the route to be established. If it’s approved, the national route will be designated United States Bike Route 37.

“Imagine a highway system for bicycles,” Tony Dorsey of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) said. “Routes along highways, along pedestrian trails, along bike paths. These things are all over the place.”

AASHTO is working with IDOT and Adventure Cycling Association, a national nonprofit organization specializing in bicycle travel and route development, on the national project and identified the Robert McClory path as part of that national effort to establish a United States Bicycle Route System.

In order for IDOT to submit the proposed Illinois route to AASHTO, support from the agencies with jurisdiction over the proposed route was required. Lake Bluff trustees unanimously approved the plan March 10; Lake Forest aldermen gave their nod on March 17. Other agencies in Lake County with an interest in the proposed route include Highland Park and Lake County.

At this time, all agencies are in the process of obtaining resolutions to support the U.S. Bike Route 37 designation.

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a developing national network of bicycle routes that will link urban, suburban, and rural areas giving greater access extending from neighboring communities to cross-country, according to www.adventurecycling.org.

To date, 5,973 miles of U.S. Bike Routes have been established in 12 states: Alaska, Kentucky, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Currently, more than 40 states are working to create U.S. Bicycle Routes.

In addition to the Lake Michigan trail, Illinois also is working on U.S. Bike Route 66 with the Route 66 Trail Executive Council.

“It’s pretty fascinating that this work is being done sort of quietly out there to connect the nation through these bike routes,” Dorsey said.

The approval by Lake Forest and Lake Bluff does not commit either community to any cost, but does put both in a strong position to receive grant funding in the future and to partner with other municipalities and Lake County for regional bicycle connections.

“We’re optimistic having the federal designation will be beneficial as far as future grant applications,” Village Administrator Drew Irvin said.

In addition to grant funding, designating and promoting USBR 37 could open opportunities for trail-based tourism and allow people who live in the region and beyond to explore Lake Forest and Lake Bluff by bike.

Designating the Robert McClory Bike Path as part of the U.S. bicycle system is consistent with the Bicycle Master Plan approved by the Lake Forest City Council in 2013.

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