Cycling Advocacy Group Seeks Road Improvements Near Whitefish

Adventure Cycling Association received confirmation that the state plans to make improvements to a five-mile stretch of U.S. 93 in coming years

By Micah Drew
Cyclists during the 2022 Tour Divide Ride outside Whitefish. | Sarah Mosquera

In mid-June of 2022, more than 200 cyclists set off from Banff, Alberta on the Tour Divide, a long-distance bike packing challenge that sends riders along a 2,745-mile route to New Mexico. Early in the ride, cold temperatures and record levels of rain and snow near the U.S.-Canada border created significant challenges for some riders, forcing more than a dozen to alter their course from crossing the Whitefish Mountain Range to the North Fork Flathead River Valley, and instead taking a paved route along U.S. Highway 93 into Whitefish.         

While those riders may have avoided the inclement conditions that led to some search-and-rescue efforts, they traded poor off-road conditions for unsafe roadways.

Adventure Cycling Association, a national cycling advocacy group, has identified a five-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 93 directly west of Whitefish as a priority area of safety concern for bicyclists.

“We have received numerous reports from riders that they feel unsafe due to crumbling shoulders and heavy traffic moving at high speeds,” wrote Adventure Cycling’s Safety manager Ren Parker in a letter to the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT). “We’ve received reports for years about this section.”

Going back to a 2007 MDT study, the five miles between Whitefish and Twin Bridges Road has been identified as a stretch where “bicycle and pedestrian facilities are critical elements of future improvements.” U.S. 93 is part of two trans-continental cycling routes, the Northern Tier and the Great Parks routes, along with being directly adjacent to the Great Divide Route that the Tour Divide uses.

Adventure Cycling asked in their letter for MDT to prioritize the stretch of highway for roadway improvements including widening shoulders, implementing bicyclist actuated rapid-flashing beacons, and installing “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signage along the route.

According to an Adventure Cycling press release, MDT assured the group that “in the coming years, there will be investment and improvements for the road.”

“MDT has a reconstruction project in development for the area of concern, tentatively schedule for construction in 2025,” the release states, adding that the new roadway will feature shoulders that are 8-feet wide and include a separate shared-use path. “These will connect to the existing previously constructed paved shoulders and path heading east into Whitefish.”

A spokesperson for MDT was unable to offer any specific details about the planned project.

“We are committed to holding transportation authorities accountable to providing safer infrastructure for cyclists,” said Parker, adding that it will “still take time and energy from Adventure Cycling Association to make sure that the project is completed and that the needs of bicyclists remain a priority for the MDT.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.