Chattanooga scraps Frazier Avenue bike lane proposal

A car drives over a bike lane marker on Frazier Avenue in this June photo. The city is scrapping a proposal for permanent bike lanes on the congested North Shore street after local business owners objected.

Some merchants on Frazier Avenue feared the city's transportation department was going to go ahead and put bike lanes in the busy North Shore corridor, regardless of the effect on their businesses.

CDOT had already stirred up a fuss putting other bike lanes around town, and the Frazier Avenue project didn't need City Council approval.

But as it turns out, city transportation officials were listening when boutique owners, restaurateurs, merchants and the public questioned the benefits of a project that would have restricted motor vehicle traffic to a single lane in each direction.

City transportation director Blythe Bailey said Thursday that CDOT is scrapping the Frazier Avenue bike lane proposal after feedback yielded more skepticism than excitement from people who depend on the street for transportation and commerce.

"For those that didn't believe we were really listening, this may restore some faith in city government," Bailey said.

The idea for the lanes arose from a 2013 Think Bike conference and made its way into CDOT's bike plan when the city accepted a federal Congestion and Mitigation Air Quality grant for more than $1.4 million in 2014.

Bike lanes already are in place in parts of the downtown area, such as Broad and North Market streets.

Frazier Avenue presented a unique challenge, however.

A study by the city's transportation consultant, Alta Planning and Design, found that Frazier Avenue would still be within Federal Highway Administration guidelines for traffic volume even with just two lanes.

But it also said Frazier Avenue would be on the "higher end" and called the intersection of Cherokee Boulevard at Frazier Avenue and Market Street the most complicated intersection within the project limits "due to its high volume during the peak hour."

Alta suggested the city conduct a simulation on Frazier Avenue to see how the proposal would work.

Bailey said fewer lanes would have made the street safer - crash rates on Frazier are about six times the state average - but the city decided not even to test the project as concerns from area merchants and residents accumulated.

"I am pleased because it would have been a nightmare on Frazier and unnecessary on that particular street in this particular city," said Suzanne Bishop, owner of Frankie and Julian's Boutique, who spoke against the project at a Heritage Landing Condominium Association meeting. "I am not opposed to bike lanes on the right street and appropriate city. Also, almost all businesses were opposed to the bike lanes on Frazier and I think that speaks volumes as well."

Cycling advocate Chandlee Caldwell said that as the downtown population continues to grow, he expects wider public support for bike infrastructure projects that separate motorists from an increasing number cyclists on the streets.

"As far as Frazier is concerned, that may have been too hard or asking too much from people right now," said Caldwell, the co-owner of Electric Bike Specialists on Main Street.

Bailey said the city still will work to cultivate bicycle connectivity around Frazier Avenue. He mentioned the possibility of installing a dedicated bike path through Coolidge Park and connecting it back to the street.

"The challenge of urban design is that you have to figure out what the right balance is," he said. "And when there's an overwhelming number of people that are relying on the corridor to get from one place to the other and what you're hearing is that 'we're afraid this is going to be debilitating to us,' that's something you have to consider."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at or 423-757-6249.