Staff File Photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press David Snyder crosses Frazier Avenue after riding his bike across the Market Street Bridge.
Tennessee crashed hard in 2009 when it came to bicycle-friendly rankings, but it overcame saddle sores and jumped 19 spots to become the 24th best state for cyclists, according to a national survey.
The League of American Cyclists recently announced its third-annual Bicycle Friendly State rankings, a survey in which the Volunteer State finished 43rd in 2009.
"I'm pleased to see this marked improvement in Tennessee's bicycle-friendly ranking, but there is much work left to do," Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely said in a news release.
The ranking lists Tennessee as fifth in the nation for 2010 legislation, 11th for programs, 17th for infrastructure, 19th for evaluation, 27th for enforcement and 41st for education.
Alabama held a firm grip on last place overall for the second year in a row, and Georgia tumbled four spots to No. 35.
Based on a 95-item questionnaire that evaluates each state's commitment to bicycling, the rankings chronicle efforts to "target legislative changes, adopt new policies and even start new advocacy groups in order to improve conditions for cyclists," league President Andy Clark said in a news release.
Troy Ivey, president of the Chattanooga Bicycle Club, noticed all of that happening this year. He remembered the Tennessee Department of Transportation's effort to add staff members and programs "devoted to bicycle issues" along with the formation of an independent statewide advocacy group called Bike Walk Tennessee.
"Those two small things made a difference," Mr. Ivey said.
He said 10 to 15 states, with Washington leading the way for a third straight year, are "clearly ahead of the pack" in terms of supporting cyclists. When asked how Tennessee could join that club, Mr. Ivey pointed to improving education on how to share the road.
"We'd like to make sure motorists are driving defensively, treating us just like any other slowly moving vehicle," Mr. Ivey said. "For us, we need to understand the rights of the road come with knowing about that car over that next hill, over that next curve."
The state official responsible for those lessons agreed.
"Clearly one area where improvement is needed is educating the public about safe bicycling and driving practices," Mr. Nicely said.
The numbers arrived at the same time as "Bike to Work Week" and the international "Ride of Silence," which is an annual ride that honors all cyclists who have been killed or injured while riding on public roads.
About 150 cyclists quietly traveled through downtown Chattanooga on May 19.
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Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...