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A plan to improve long-distance biking trails is moving through Congress

A man bikes on a red dirt trail in the mountains of Lander, WY.
Bureau of Land Management
Flickr Creative Commons
Parks across the West have reported increases in ridership and trail use since the pandemic began.

News Brief

Ten new locations across the U.S. may be getting a long-distance road, gravel, or mountain biking trail thanks to proposed federal legislation.

A bipartisan bill that would create the trails recently passed the House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate. It’s called the Biking on Long-Distance Trails, or BOLT, Act.

The bill deals with routes that run longer than 80 miles. But Katie Harris of the nonprofit Adventure Cycling Association says riders don’t necessarily have to do the whole effort in one go to enjoy themselves.

We really feel like any length of an adventure is an adventure,” said Harris, who advocated for the bill.

Several Western lawmakers, including John Barrasso (R-WY) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), are cosponsors of the bill.

Harris said the federal government can use existing routes in the region as inspiration for new networks, including the Colorado Trail and Arizona Trail.

It empowers people and enables people to use public lands in a way that's much lighter on the land and [encourages] sustainable forms of transportation and recreation,” she said.

Wyoming, New Mexico and Nevada are among the places ripe for investment, she added.

Parks across the West have reported increases in ridership and trail use since the pandemic began. To combat the wear and tear on public lands, some parks in Wyoming are considering user fees as a funding resource.

Harris said it’s good to have more people biking, but that more infrastructure is necessary. Extended trails on public lands through the BOLT Act, she argues, could spread out riders and thin out crowds.

“It's going to lessen the impact on some of our most loved places,” Harris said.

As the legislation moves to the Senate, it will either be taken up as an individual bill or included in a larger package investing in outdoor recreation.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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