Chattanooga ranked among best cities for retirees to enjoy 'bicycling bliss'

Several cyclist us the path at the Chattanooga Riverpark.
photo Cars pass a new bike lane Monday, Sept. 28, 2015 on Broad Street.
photo Barricades sit in a new bike lane Monday, Sept. 28, 2015 on Broad Street.
photo Chattanooga was one of eight cities highlighted for being bike-friendly by the "Where to Retire" magazine that hits the newsstands on Feb. 16.

Soddy-Daisy resident Tom Jamison retired on a Friday in October, 2004.

The next day, he pedaled away from his home on a new touring bicycle en route to Orlando, Fla., where eight days later he was to meet his youngest daughter and her family for a vacation at SeaWorld.

Jamison, who has racked up at least 10,000 miles bicycling every year but one since 2007, wasn't surprised to hear that Chattanooga was recognized as one of the best cities in America for "bicycling bliss" for seniors by Where to Retire magazine.

"It's a good place to cycle," said Jamison, 61, a retired Tennessee Valley Authority engineer and project manager. "The terrain around here is just great. This is just as good as any [place] there is."

Chattanooga and the seven other cities - Ann Arbor, Mich.; Cary, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Gainesville, Fla.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Mesa, Ariz.; and Sioux Falls, S.D. - make it easy to bike, the magazine's editor, Annette Fuller, said.

"Some cities, such as Chattanooga, support cycling more than others, with bike lanes, rider encouragement and more," Fuller said. "In addition to being bike-friendly, these towns have other characteristics that retirees often look for, such as culture, active downtowns, access to medical care, stunning scenery and relatively mild weather."

The city of Chattanooga caught flak for the recent construction of protected bike lanes that took up two of the six lanes of Broad Street in the heart of downtown. The city plans to create additional dedicated bike lanes downtown on Martin Luther King Boulevard and on Bailey Avenue.

A lesson city officials learned from Broad Street is the more they can engage with people and meet face-to-face before a project is built, the better the outcome, City Transportation Director Blythe Bailey said.

"We're trying to create a safer community and a community that people want to live in," Bailey said regarding the new bike lanes. "I think the key to that is giving people options for how they want to move around."

Bikes co-exist well with drivers in Chattanooga, according to Tom Caldwell, 61, a retired urologist who moved here in 1995 and has biked since 2005.

"The traffic is not as bad as it is in other places," Caldwell said. "By and large, the motorists are quite tolerant."

Caldwell's first love was mountain biking, but a bad back caused him to give that up and switch to a recumbent road bike. He's a member of the Chattanooga Bicycle Club, which holds two or three rides a week that average between 40 and 60 miles.

"Chattanooga is an extremely good place for mountain bikes," Caldwell said, citing Raccoon Mountain and Enterprise South Nature Park as good sites for that.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or business or 423-757-6651.