It may come as news to some
that Tennessee is steadily rising up the ranks of America’s bike friendly
This improvement has been
driven by its two biggest cities—Nashville and Memphis—which are following the profitable urban trend toward building
landscapes that provide transportation options and public facilities for
exercise and recreation. Thanks to the vision of leaders in these two cities,
Tennessee is now the second
most bike-friendly state in the Southeast.
kick off our month long focus on what’s happening in Tennessee, trails-wise, here’s
just a few of the good things we’ve seen lately.
1. Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. is a big part of why Memphis has managed to
improve its bike- and walkability. When he was elected in 2009, Memphis was
among the worst
in country for bicyclists. Now, it has nearly 150 miles of dedicated bike
lanes, shared-use lanes, and off-road trails, and hired its first bike-ped
coordinator in 2010. As a result, Memphis earned a coveted spot on the Forbes
list of emerging
“We need to make biking
part of our DNA,” Mayor Wharton said in a New
York Times article last year. “I’m trying to build a city for the people
who will be running it 5, 10, 15 years from now. And in a region known to some
for rigid thinking, the receptivity has been remarkable.”
2. The Harahan Bridge Project involves the
development of a bike and pedestrian pathway alongside an active rail line
spanning the Mississippi River between downtown Memphis and Arkansas. The Harahan Bridge overhaul is a key
component of the Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal
Connector Project, expected to be completed by August 2014.
3. A centerpiece of
efforts to make Memphis a more walkable and bikeable city is the Greater Memphis Greenline (right), which will
convert unused railway right-of-ways and utility easements throughout the city
and Shelby County into an
integrated multi-use trail system. The first piece of the network, Shelby
Farms Greenline, opened in 2010 and connects midtown Memphis with a massive
urban green space five times the size of New York’s Central Park.
4. Memphis was one of six
cities chosen for the Green Lane Project,
an initiative of the Bikes Belong
Foundation to create an extensive network of protected on-road bicycling
lanes. Over the next two years, the city will add 15 miles of green lanes,
which utilize physical barriers, such as plastic posts or landscaping, to
separate bicyclists from vehicular traffic.
5. As Mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean has been an active supporter of
bicycling and walking initiatives for the city, including the formation of
Nashville’s first Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee in 2008. The city
currently has more than 150 miles of off-road multi-use trails, dedicated bike
lanes, and shared-use routes.
Those efforts have paid
off. The city received its first
designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community last year and a slate of recent
initiatives is building on that success. Locals point to Terry Key of the Edgehill Bike Club, a group of young people from
one of Nashville's urban neighborhoods, as one of the advocates working hard in
the city to boost ridership and get people more engaged with the city’s plans.
6. Nashville GreenBikes provides free cruiser-style bicycles at nine
community centers throughout the city. All that’s needed to borrow a bike is an
ID or proof of address. And Nashville
B-Cycle, the city’s fee-based bike-share
program, provides nearly 200 low-cost rentals from 21 automated kiosks located
within a three-mile radius of downtown.
7. In Knoxville years ago, they used to call Kelley Segars “the bike lady.” As the city’s first ever bike
program coordinator battling a car dominated transportation culture, she was
very much pushing from the outside. Just a few short years later and it is easy
to get around the city on wheels or on foot. The Third Creek Greenway is a huge part of that growth, the beloved
centerpiece to city’s trails network and connector to heaps of other bike/ped
paths and community destinations.
8. When we asked our
members and supporters in Tennessee what were the best bike/ped things
happening in their state, we knew we’d hear about Memphis and Nashville. But we
were impressed with the love coming out of Chattanooga. Bike Chattanooga’s Bicycle Transit System (left) has boosted ridership
around the city. Local students receive membership discounts and all rides under
60 minutes are free. Apps available for both Apple and Android platforms, too.
Nice. The Tennessee Riverpark
(locals call it the Riverwalk) is responsible for much of the boom in biking and
walking activity in the city. The City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County deserve a lot of the
credit, as do local partners like Outdoor Chattanooga and the Trust for Public
Land (and a few others, no doubt). Even better – the Riverwalk is growing, with
plans underway to extend at both ends.
9. Music City Bikeway is a continuous
26-mile route—a combination of trails, bike lanes,
and shared roads—connecting major parks, neighborhoods
and downtown Nashville. The bikeway opened last year, and allows travelers to
cut across Davidson County from the Percy Priest Dam to
Percy Warner Park along a route that was once dangerous and difficult to navigate.
10. In 2011 Johnson City
purchased a 10-mile section of disused rail line connecting its downtown with
nearby Elizabethton. Backed by overwhelming positive feedback from residents
and businesses, trail experts Alta/Greenways have been called into to push the
process of converting the corridor into a rail-trail through the next phases. Local officials are excited by the potential
for economic and residential growth that the rail-trail will bring to the city.
All this month we’ll be
sharing Tennessee news, events, campaigns and general goodness, and we need to
hear from you. Get on our facebook page, retweet the tweets @railstotrails, post some pretty
pictures to our instagram page @railstotrails, and help us spread the word about the good
things happening in Tennessee.