I thought I would chime in - for several reasons.
1) Suitability maps - I think through your discussion you've covered the fact that suitability maps are often not very complete and that they depend upon how "deep" the DOT will dig in on road conditions. Often the DOT will only work with itself - and won't coordinate on these types of things with counties and municipalities. Thus, you get a suitability map that only has conditions on state owned roads. Not very helpful.
2)ODOT - well, hello John Nettles. It's interesting to see you posting about OK on the forum. I was just at the Oklahoma Bike Summit wherein many state and city planners and engineers joined in a full-day session on bike facility design. the OK Bike Coalition did a fabulous job attracting ODOT and city agencies to the training and I believe some eyes were really opened. On Saturday, I did a session on bicycle tourism but only a few agency people were there - an ODOT planner and the tourism bureau (who is taking over Scenic Byway program!). OK has some great potential but it will take a coordinated effort between tourism, cities and the organized bicycling community pushing ODOT to step up and do something for cyclists. It just isn't their bag - yet.
3) the BAD news is that while today the DOTs are federally mandated to have a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator AND spend money on things for bicyclists, under the new bill being proposed by the Senate - and Oklahoma's Senator Coburn, there will no longer be a pot of money dedicated. Things will be eligible...but we will be in competition with HOV lanes, environmental mitigation and worst of all, there is an opt out. While we have some time (the current bill has an extension until end of March) the EPW committee has said they won't accept any amendments and will vote as a block.
We have the fight of our lives ahead, especially for states, like OK, who are just getting ready to start implementing more bicycle and pedestrian practices. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to support the OK Bike Coalition. They are going to need a lot of voices in order to be heard.
As for suitability maps, I feel, personally, these aren't very helpful. States are so inconsistent. That's why the U.S. Bicycle Route System is such a great option. Local cyclists identify great through routes between destinations and these are most likely NOT on state owned roads. It is mapped and promoted and someday - signed for cyclists. In OK i think the best opportunity at the moment to get a good bicycle map is by working with the Tourism bureau. They get it, but it means the cyclists will have to do ALL of the grunt work.
Thanks for a great discussion. I hope you find I contributed to it. Ginny Sullivan