Thursday, March 04, 2010

a holistic approach

Furthering the discussion from yesterday's post, I thought I'd show here what I thought a comprehensive bicycle lane system in Knoxville would look like. The current piecemeal approach has left us with good bike lanes that go nowhere:

I know funding has been a limiting factor, and also that some roads don't have much room (see Kelley Segars's comments) but what should we be aiming for? As the city redevelops major streetscapes (like the upcoming Cumberland Ave. Strip makeover) bike lanes need to be included by default.

Hall of Fame Blvd. is good example- great bike lanes, but they don't push through and connect with downtown, Broadway, or the Magnolia Ave. bike lanes. Actually making a comprehensive system will mean threading sometimes difficult connectors between paths, at expense of (gasp!) automobile traffic. The new Henley Street Bridge bike lanes are great, but what happens when you reach the end of it and plunge into that snarling mass of automobiles? What if it was more like this:

1) Extend the Hall of Fame bike lanes to Broadway and to the new transit center.
2) Extend the current Magnolia bike lanes to Broadway
3) Extend the Central St. lanes to the Old City
4) Introduce new bike lanes on Western Ave./Summit Hill to make a main east-west route. (Jackson Ave. could be an alternate if Summit Hill is unfeasible.)
5) Introduce bike lanes starting on Chapman Hwy. from Disc Exchange to Henley St. and up Broadway to Hall of Fame, creating a main north-south route. (Gay St. could be an alternate, but it doesn't really need lanes since it's the most bike-friendly street in the city.)
6) Introduce bike lanes on Cumberland Ave extending all the way to downtown. Make a connector to Western Ave. via 17th St.
7) Make an east-west connector to the new transit center on Church St. through the middle of downtown.
8) Tie in Sevier Ave to Gay Street and the Henley St. Bridge lanes

One could bike into downtown from Parkridge, 4th & Gill, Old North, Mechanicsville, Fort Sanders, the UT campus, and the South Waterfront on a dedicated bicycle infrastructure. I know this won't happen immediately, but all these roads will need to be rebuilt at some point. We need a city policy that includes these lanes into street design by default, not just as an incidental extra if its convenient. If there's no more right of way, we need to consider putting our roads on a "diet" eliminating wasteful lanes. Central St. was trimmed down from a four lane highway to make room for parking and bike lanes and seems to be working beautifully. I think many routes through downtown are eligible for similar diets. What do you think?

[edit] If you agree with me about the importance of this, be sure to check out the city's Regional Bicycle Program here and fan them on Facebook here. Kelley Segars is coordinating lobbying our city officials to make bicyclists a priority.


B said...

that is one (or two) good looking maps, ck. i've never really been into maps. until now.

B said...

also. due to the plethora of colors in the second map, i envision more carefree biking, uninhibited by scary automobiles. I like the second map. i like it a lot.

Anonymous said...

Looks pretty good. Now if only we could get bike lanes that are physically separated from cars. Portland and Bogota come to mind -

It's a long shot, but I think its the difference between making biking better for a few dudes in spandex and making it a real transportation option.

Robert said...

Great planning ck. This is the type of infrastucture that's integral to a society.

Also, being a Nashville native, I am always so glad to see so many bikes around town - so many more than I see when I visit home. Knoxville has a great problem in that there are already people who ride, now we just need to make this a safer, more viable option.

Christopher (Robin) Cherry said...

I like it. Don't forget the greenways on your map though. They can be a great asset...if they go where you want to go.

Tom Skib said...

There are so many points that I agree with on this post. When I see what NYC is doing to reduce traffic along their main arteries, it makes me jealous. Alternate methods of transportation are truly viable, if the city/county/state elected officials would start making it a priority. This map pretty much points out the most needed bicycle lanes and its really not a lot. Some would be more difficult to implement than others (such as Broadway), but with the upcoming Henley St bridge closer coming soon, that leaves Henley/Chapman with a perfect opportunity to construct these bike lanes with traffic reduction.

Anonymous said...

I don't know many bikers that would brave 17th. That is STEEP, son. The map looks great, though, and connection with greenways would be awesome.

ck said...

I bike up 17th every now and then- that hill is BIG but rewarding. I live in Mechanicsville, so pretty much all my options from the campus area involve painful burning legs.

ck said...

About the greenways- I think you could hook the urban lane system into the greenway system at Tyson Park via Cumberland. The Ruth's Chris parking lot entrance is awful, but the Hall of Fame lanes could be extended down there.

mikeybikey said...

as a knoxvillian-in-exile living in america's bicycle capital: portland, or, i would tend to agree - connection should be the top priority. i might also add that while bicycle lanes are easier to implement, i would set the bar a notch higher. go for cycletracks or buffered bike lanes that provide either grade separation, physical or painted buffers from motor vehicle traffic. if propoerly marketing this approach could see more popular support than bicycle lanes because more people would consider using these facilities. it might also be possible to apply for federal $ under safe routes to schools for such an implementation. just food for thought. glad to see knoxville moving forward in this regard.

Austin said...

Couple thoughts. First, this is a great start to a bike system. It needs to be connected at its west end to the Sequoyah Hills greenways and on to Bearden. If the City would narrow Kingston through Sequoyah to one lane, with bike lanes and a grassy median, that would redirect most traffic onto I-40 naturally.

Two, I think using Jackson Ave as a main east-west artery would be preferrable to Summitt Hill. Jackson is going to be experiencing a great redevelopment hopefully in the near future and should be easier to bike.

kelley said...

Great discussion! First, ck, there IS a "policy that includes these lanes into street design by default." You mentioned that the Hall of Fame bike lanes didn't extend into downtown--that is because the project area didn't include Hall of Fame from Summit Hill to Hill. For anyone who really wants to get more involved in these issues, let me know at and I can invite you to the Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings. (To clarify, I am not "coordinating lobbying efforts," --government staff cannot do that--but can certainly help people find the right ways to express their opinions!)

Because I work in government, perhaps I am just too aware of how things work (which is very slowly) or don't work at all. I am very happy to see this vision, but reality does have to play some role. For instance, Henley cannot possibly be a candidate for a road diet between the bridge and Summit Hill. So we either have to wait for gas to go up to $10/gallon and people will drive less, then do a road diet, or add bike lanes to the existing road, which is pretty much impossible because of the historic church being next to the road, along with other buildings. (Although the future closure of Henley St bridge poses interesting possibilities for getting motorists used to James White Parkway. Then again, everyone used I-640 for 14 months, but happily went back to I-40 when it re-opened.) I have info on the other roads as well, but don't want to write a whole essay in a comment box.

Again, if you want to be involved in these discussions, let me know and we can get together with the BAC, who have been working on this since 2001.

Ngchen said...

I agree completely that for a system to ultimately work well, tying into an existing network is the way to go. Now, for some more specifics...

I am thinking how cycletracks may well be overrated, in that they tend to make movements difficult to predict, and cost a fortune at the same time. Cycletracks also have the problem of not encouraging riders to venture out from them onto regular streets. I believe it's unrealistic to expect a network of cycletracks to be overlaid atop the streets we currently have.

For places with lots of intersections and heavy and/or high-speed traffic, on street bike lanes are probably the way to go. In substantially less developed areas with few intersections, it may well be that a sidepath/greenway would be cheaper. For low-speed, low traffic roads, there is probably no need to do anything to "fix" it.

The standard problem with greenways is that they simply do not go to enough places to get substantial usage. Third creek for instance IIRC gets like a few hundred walkers/runners/cyclists a day combined.

Now, every place is unique, and AFAIK the thing about Knoxville is that we are dominated by a series of heavily traveled high-speed arterials (e.g. Kingston Pike), which have many branches that are actually quite OK as is. Some of the busier branches can use bike lanes too, of course.

As Kelley kindly pointed out, retrofitting certain areas is difficult to impossible. The Cumberland strip is getting 14 ft wide outside lanes because of a lack of space. Those I hope will be a substantial improvement over current conditions.

Now, it's possible to get lots of "bang for the buck" through intelligent lane conversions, provided that there is money to do the traffic engineering. Repaving time would seem ideal for such. Speaking of which, back when I was in Michigan, there was a city-wide set aside of a certain small percentage (might be 2% or 5%) of transportation dollars that was to be used for nonmotorized transport. Do we have something like that here?

Lo said...

CK- Google maps just added "by bicycle" as a mode of transport for their directions search function. Check it out on their blog here-

They don't, however, have all the bike lanes updated, it appears. Only they haven't updated bike lanes to the basemap for knoxville.

you should tell them!

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