More than 100 bicyclists left from Finley Stadium with a police escort Friday morning for a three-day, southbound ride along a newly established U.S. Bike Route.
The Atlanta-based Bicycle Ride Across Georgia group organized the event, which took riders along U.S. Bike Route 21 to Summerville, Ga., on Friday.
Participants ride to Rockmart today and to Atlanta on Sunday.
"It's, in many ways, the inaugural ride on this route," said Jim Johnson, a local advocate of the U.S. Bike Route system and a participant in the ride.
Cycling advocates in Tennessee are working with local municipalities along the way in an effort to achieve official designation within the Adventure Cycling Association's growing national network of bike routes.
Once designated, routes are signed and marked to indicate their status within the U.S. Bike Route system.
U.S. Bike Route 21 will run north-south from Kentucky, through Knoxville and Chattanooga. The Georgia portion of the route that cyclists are riding this weekend is already designated.
The routes primarily use existing roads, but also incorporate greenways and multi-use paths when possible and are selected based on their safety, scenery and access to facilities that touring bikers may need during their rides.
"I've ridden many parts of the route with small groups of people, and on my own," Johnson said. "So this is a really good opportunity to really test it with a large group. What's really nice is that these routes are flexible, and we can always make changes. So this will be a great way to test it out."
Most of this weekend's riders traveled to Chattanooga from Atlanta to begin the ride. They are camping each night.
Contact staff writer David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249.