Highlights From the Tennessee Bike Summit

Christy SmithThe second annual Tennessee Bike Summit took place during May in Memphis, Tennessee. I had the pleasure of attending with a few hundred others from all across the volunteer state, who support bicycling as a form of transportation and recreation. As an advocate for bicycling and walking, with a mission to improve the health and well -being of children, I was proud to represent the Safe Routes Partnership and help those at the summit make the connection between a safe route to school and a more liveable community. 

Here are some highlights from the summit:

Tennessee is moving forward quickly and being recognized in the League of American Cyclists rankings of bike friendly states as 17th in the nation is one example. Tennessee ranked the second bike-friendliest state in the Southeast. Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer says the network of bike lanes across the state is growing and he plans to continue dedicating funding for programs such as Safe Routes to School. Andy Clarke, League of American Bicyclist President, commended TDOT for changing the face of the department of transportation and setting an example for other states to follow.

The City of Memphis passed a Complete Streets policy and will put bike lanes (not counting shared lanes for cars and bikes) on 51 miles of city streets. Additionally, Memphis Mayor, A C Wharton announced that 15 miles of protected "green lanes" will be added in the next two years and a $350,000 project will connect Overton Park to Broad Street.

Chattanooga had the opportunity to show off its “scenic city” status to thousands of cyclists and spectators as world class bicyclists competed for the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships. During this race, for the first time ever, female cyclists raced on the same course as the men and were eligible for the same prize money.

In Knoxville, Mayor Madeline Rogero announced she will be hiring the cities first alternative transportation coordinator in the Engineering Department. This new coordinator will be hired with expertise in engineering for pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit in mind to help advance multi modal transportation projects.

And the growth doesn’t stop there. TDOT Assistant Commissioner, Toks Omishakin, announced that ten million dollars will be set aside next budget year in Tennessee for small projects that don’t fit into other grants programs, but can have big impact, like sidewalk connectors and bike lanes. In 2014, Nashville will take up the torch to host the 3rd annual bike summit, where those from around the state who promote cycling will meet up again to share best practices and tout successes.