League of Bicyclists ranks Tennessee No. 2 in Southeast

League of Bicyclists ranks Tennessee No. 2 in Southeast

May 2nd, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Kaitlyn Ware, left, and Jason Burford ride bicycles in front of the Hunter Museum of American Art on Wednesday in downtown Chattanooga. Tennessee was recently ranked the second most bike-friendly state in the Southeast.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

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5 BEST SOUTHEAST CYCLING STATES

1. Virginia

2. Tennessee

3. Georgia

4. North Carolina

5. Louisiana

Source: League of American Bicyclists

POLL: Do you feel Tennessee is bike friendly?

Tennessee is the second best on two wheels.

The League of American Bicyclists released its rankings Wednesday of the states that are friendliest toward cycling. And in the Southeastern part of the country, Tennessee is No. 2, drafting right behind Virginia.

The league bases its rankings on infrastructure, bicycle education programs and state laws that promote rider safety.

"For being in the Southeast, we're really setting the curve," said Tyler Klein, the owner of Trek Bicycle Store of Chattanooga.

Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana round out the region's top five states, though Western states tend to be friendlier than this region. The league ranked Washington, Colorado and Oregon as the three best in the country. Tennessee ranked 17th.

Klein chalked up the West Coast's superiority to its legacy. States on that side of the country started adding bicycle lanes and promoting bicycle communities during the 1990s, he said. Other areas have only become hip to the movement in recent years.

Outdoor Chattanooga will host biking events through May to celebrate National Bike Month. And on Memorial Day weekend, the city will host the USA Cycling Professional Men's and Women's Road and Time Trial National Championships.

The event will stay here for the next three years.

"Chattanooga, I think, has really moved forward" in recent years, he said.

Philip Pugliese, the Outdoor Chattanooga bicycle coordinator, said the Tennessee Department of Transportation has done a good job of adding bicycle lanes to roads that it fixes. Here in Chattanooga, TDOT added lanes to Willow Street last year.

Pugliese also credited the state's bicycle passing law. If you try to get around a cyclist, you must keep your car at least 3 feet away from that person. Education, too, is important, Pugliese said. Every month, Outdoor Chattanooga provides bicycle safety programs.

In particular, Chattanooga deserves much of the credit for Tennessee's ranking, said Wayne Mansfield, who has owned East Ridge Bicycles for about 30 years. He said he knows people in Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., and Greenville, S.C., who come to the Scenic City just to ride.

"We have some of the best mountain bicycle trails in the Southeast," he said.

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.