10 Great Things Happening in Tennessee

Posted 08/01/13 by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Success Stories

It may come as news to some that Tennessee is steadily rising up the ranks of America’s bike friendly states.

This improvement has been driven by its two biggest citiesNashville 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.

To 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 downtowns.
“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.

greater-memphis-greenline.jpg3. A centerpiece of efforts to make Memphis a more walkable and bikeable city is theGreater 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 theGreen Lane Project, aninitiative 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.

  1.  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. AndNashville 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.
  2.  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.

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