Yesterday House Bill 1650 was officially "taken off notice" by its sponsors, effectively killing the bill for this legislative session. HB 1650 (and its companion bill SB 1716) sought to strip away the ability of the State and local communities to use funding generated by the gas-tax to support the construction of bicycle infrastructure.
Over the past two months, our network has come together in an incredible way to oppose this dangerous legislation. Our petition in opposition to the bill received more than 3,500 signatures and thousands of Tennesseans contacted their legislators to express their opposition. Many legislators even commented on how impressed they were with how effectively we all were in our advocacy. You should be proud of yourself and of the thousands of people across the state who came together and took a stand for healthy, vibrant communities. This has been the largest mobilization of bicycle and pedestrian advocates in the state's history. Come celebrate this memorable victory with us next week at the 5th Annual TN Bike Summit on April 22nd-23rd, in Chattanooga.
We can't rest on our laurels for too long, though. Next year's legislative session is likely to include similar attacks to bicycling and walking. We are only able to continue serving as the leading voice of biking and walking through the support of people like you. Please consider making a donation to Bike Walk Tennessee today and help us strengthen our ability to advocate on behalf of thousands of people who walk and bike across Tennessee. Thank you once again for all your help! We couldn't do it without you!
Guest Blog: Bike Law Attorney Explains SB1716/HB1650
Tennessee bicyclists, take note: a bill being considered by your lawmakers could wipe out funding for biking and bike facilities.
The bill with the potential to cause the most damage is HB 1650. (A related Senate bill is SB 1760.) The House Transportation Subcommittee has it scheduled for consideration this Wednesday (Feb. 17).
What is the big problem with bill? It spells out how gas tax money must be used by counties, cities and the highway fund. The bottom line under the bill: NONE of that tax money could be earmarked for bike facilities.
HB 1650, subsection 2, reads:
“No revenues from the gasoline tax distributed to the counties, cities, and highway fund pursuant to subsection (b) shall be used for the construction, improvement, or maintenance of a right-of-way or other facility that is open to the use of the public for non-vehicular travel, such as pedestrian and bicycle trails, lanes, and paths; sidewalks; parks; and greenways.”
HERE’S WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PROPOSAL
Here are a few other things that are wrong with this short-sighted proposal:
- This bill would restrict use of gas tax funds for construction, improvement, or maintenance of existing bicycle facilities.
- It would make it impossible to implement the complete streets policies so many Tennessee municipalities have recently adopted.
- It would make it impossible to follow the TDOT long term transportation plan.
- It would negatively impact tourism and commerce.
- It would prohibit the development of safer streets for cyclists and motorists alike.
- The proposal would prevent local communities from developing bike facilities as they see fit.
- This bill would not encourage healthy lifestyles.
TDOT OPPOSITION — MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AT RISK
Guess what? The Tennessee Department of Transportation doesn’t like the proposal. The agency issued a fiscal note which made it clear that this would likely violate the ADA, putting millions of dollars of federal highway funding at risk.
So what was the bill sponsor’s response? Rather than reevaluating the motives behind the bill and considering the bigger picture, he doubled down. He is attempting to make the bill ADA compliant by only targeting bicycle facilities.
There is a real concern among bike advocates that this bill could move forward. The governor of Tennessee has proposed an increase to the gas tax which has not been well received, and so the atmosphere is ripe for HB 1650 to pass.
BIKE WALK TN LEADING THE CHARGE
As a board member of Bike Walk Tennessee, I have been a part of the initial outreach to the members of the transportation subcommittee. The members of the subcommittee are aware of Bike Walk Tennessee’s opposition to the bill, and the reasons why.
Bike Walk Tennessee, with help from People for Bikes, has also sent letters to the transportation subcommittee with the names of businesses and other organizations that oppose the bill.
What is impressive is the number of people and organizations who have already reached out to the members of the transportation subcommittee to voice their opposition. Among them are Chief David Rausch of the Knoxville Police Department, the hundreds of individuals who have signed Walk Bike Nashville’s petition, and the owners of local businesses who have signed onto letters of opposition, which have been sent to the members of the transportation subcommittee.
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD
Tennessee cyclists, please join these individuals and groups and voice your opposition to Tennessee lawmakers.
What can you do to help prevent this bill from passing?
- First, sign Bike Walk Tennessee’s petition.
- Next, copy and paste Bike Walk Tennessee’s prepared letter, asking the transportation subcommittee to oppose the bill, and also send the letter to the members of the transportation subcommittee, whose email addresses are provided in the link to the letter.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, share this news with any Tennessean you know who might have a vested interest in opposing this bill, whether or not they are a cyclist. Think about your local bicycle friendly businesses, or organizations devoted to promoting active and healthy lifestyles. Think about your favorite post-ride watering hole and ask for their signature on the petition. Reach out to any sponsors of your local clubs or rides. Get the word out.
This blog was written by Amy Benner, Knoxville attorney and member of Bike Walk TN's Board of Directors. You can view her original blog post here.
In January, Senator Todd Gardenhire and Representative Mike Carter introduced a bill that could have detrimental impacts to the future of biking and walking in Tennessee.
SB1716/HB1650 would strip away the ability of the state and local communities to use funding generated from the state gas tax for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
This bill hurts all Tennesseans, since the majority of those who walk and bike in our state also contribute to the gas tax fund. All road users benefit from decreased congestion and improved safety - both of which are direct benefits of walking, biking, and transit options.
If you value greenways, trails, bike lanes or sidewalks and support their role in improving the quality of life for all Tennesseans, please take a moment to sign our petition and contact your legislators.
In addition to signing the petition, please take a few short minutes to copy and paste the email addresses of members from the Senate and House Transportation Committees to let them know that SB1716/HB1650 is a dangerous bill that will undermine the enormous progress Tennessee has made over the years for biking and walking. You can find email addresses and some draft language below that you can feel free to edit and use in your email.
Your participation and advocacy on this issue is absolutely critical. Biking and walking are central to the health, economic development, and vibrancy of communities across Tennessee. Please help to stop this dangerous bill before it becomes law.
Contact TN Legislators
SAMPLE EMAIL - Copy and paste the below email into your email browser. Feel free to make any edits (the more personal your email, the more effective it will be). Send your email to all members of the House and Senate Transportation Committees; you can find their email address below.
Dear House/Senate Transportation Committee Members:
2015 was the deadliest year in two decades for bicyclists and pedestrians in Tennessee. Last year, more than 10% of all fatalities on Tennessee roadways involved a person outside of a motor vehicle
Such tragic loss of life can be prevented with improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
However, instead of decreasing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, SB1716/HB1650 will make Tennessee roads less safe for people who walk and bike. SB1716/HB1650 will strip away the ability of local communities to use state transportation funds for projects that make our roads safer for all users.
As Tennessee seeks solutions to address obesity and heart disease rates that are some of the highest in the nation, it should continue to provide local communities the ability to build infrastructure that encourages people to exercise and lead active lifestyles.
As Tennessee seeks solutions to address rural communities in dire need of economic development, it should continue to provide local communities the ability to build sidewalks and crosswalks in their downtown areas to increase vibrancy and tourism that, in turn, create more customers for small businesses.
SB1716/HB1650 limits local communities from making local decisions about how to improve the quality of life for local residents. I encourage you to oppose this legislation that is prohibitive to the growth, vibrancy, and health of communities across Tennessee.
HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
SENATE FINANCE, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
We are now accepting speaker proposals for the 2016 TN Bike Summit in Chattanooga!
The TN Bike Summit attracts a unique mix of participants from local government, bicycle advocacy, bicycle retailers, and a wide variety of partners in health, environment, and transportation.
The purpose of the TN Bike Summit is to:
Each format will be a one-hour block with time for questions and moving to the next session. Blocks may be combined into longer sessions if requested.
Submitting a Proposal
Please submit proposals to Matt Farr at firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, February 29. Selected proposals will be announced by March 7. Summit registration fees will be waived for all presenters.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Comment Period for USBR 21, 121, and 121A NOW OPEN!
Over the past six months, we've been working with dozens of bike clubs, ride leaders, cycling enthusiasts, and transportation officials to scout U.S. Bicycle Routes 21 and 121. With this input, we have created a series of proposed routes and would now like for your help in determining if they are the most suitable options of official USBR designation.
Selecting the best route is no easy task. There is a set of criteria that we look for in selecting a route, which you can find here. Take a second to review these criteria, and then have a look at the proposed routes, which we have linked below. If you are familiar with these roads, or know of a potentially better alternative, please get in touch with Matt Farr at email@example.com with your feedback and suggestions. We intend to keep this comment period open through November 1, at which point we will be working with local jurisdictions to secure the required sign-offs. Our goal is to work with TDOT to submit finalized routes in Spring 2016 for official USBR designation.
USBR 21 runs north-south and connects Kentucky to Georgia through Knoxville and Chattanooga. Paralleling the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this route is scenic and has the potential to attract touring cyclists from around the world. Please find a proposed route for USBR 21 at this link.
USBR 121 connects Chattanooga to Nashville via South Pittsburg, Sewanee, Cowan, Tullahoma, Bell Buckle, and Murfreesboro. We are also proposing an alternate route, which you can find below. We have selected this as the primary route due to the higher frequency of amenities available. You can find the proposed route for USBR 121 at this link.
USBR 121A also connects Chattanooga to Nashville, but splits off of the primary route mentioned above at Sewanee and passes through Monteagle, Tracy City, and Manchester on the east side of Interstate 24 before reconnecting with the primary route in Bell Buckle. You can find the proposed route for USBR 121A at this link.
Please remit any comments, feedback, or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org before November 1st. Your input is valuable and appreciated. Thank you so much for your help as we work to make Tennessee a premier destination for touring cyclists.
Developed by the Adventure Cycling Association, the U.S. Bicycle Route System is a nationwide network of carefully selected designated routes for touring cyclists. Most of these routes are on existing roadways, and oftentimes the only initial infrastructure expense is wayfinding signage.
The National Corridor Plan lays out proposed corridors for creating a nationwide network. In the map above, the darker routes are officially designated. The other shaded routes are corridors--ideas for where a route could exist, but are not officially designated. As you can see, Tennessee is major hub for this proposed network with five route intersections. Few states in the nation have this many intersections, and few routes in the Southeast are officially designated--Tennessee has an opportunity to be a national leader for the development of this system.
Official designation entails scouting the route—a process that involves talking to local cyclists, inspecting road conditions and cataloguing water stops and other amenities. Another important and time-intensive component is developing relationships with local stakeholders and seeking their buy-in. Once a route has been vetted, it is submitted to TDOT. TDOT then officially applies for federal designation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). We then work together to secure funding for signage. Promoting the route is another vital step to ensure the success of it and future routes.
Adventure Cycling maintains an online collection of studies and resources related to the economic impact of bicycle tourism. It is thorough and representative of case studies from many states. States that have designated U.S. Bicycle Routes and Scenic Bikeways are reporting an economic impact of $400 million from bicycle tourism.
Tennessee has an ideal climate for cycling. Tennessee offers unparalleled outdoor experiences: from the lowland cypress swamps in the west, to the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, to the Great Smoky Mountains in the east--a diversity of unique experiences enjoyed by bicycle. And a vast assortment of iconic cultural attractions provides a particular draw that people can't get anywhere else. Given the state’s centralized geographic location—a couple of days ride to access eight other states—Tennessee has enormous potential as an international destination for bicycle tourism. Developing a high quality U.S. Bicycle Route and Scenic Bikeways network in Tennessee would be a very low-cost, high-return endeavor.
In our next blog, we’ll dive further into Scenic Bikeways and the implications and opportunities for a U.S. Bicycle Route and Scenic Bikeways network in Tennessee. Sign up for our email list or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to join the conversation.
Cities across Tennessee have seen significant growth in biking and walking over the past five years. Since the founding of Bike Walk Tennessee in 2009, Tennessee has climbed from 43rd to 20th in bicycle friendliness. Tennessee’s cities are investing unprecedented dollars in sidewalks and dedicated infrastructure. Indeed, biking and walking are becoming rapidly integrated into the lives of Tennessee’s urban and suburban residents.
But what about the places between the big cities? Tennessee is a big state, and millions of Tennesseans don’t live in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, or Chattanooga. What does bicycle and pedestrian advocacy mean for these communities?
There are many advantages that come to small and medium sized communities that embrace biking and walking. It’s a mode of transportation and recreation that operates at the same pace as a small-town lifestyle. It’s personable. It’s respectful and complimentary to the outdoors. It’s a shrewd investment that is the definition of a self-reliant, resourceful way of life.
Biking and walking are central components to economic development, transportation, public health, and quality of life initiatives in towns across Tennessee, and already have modest support across various divisions of state government.
The U.S. Bicycle Route System and Tennessee Scenic Bikeways program weaves many of these state-funded initiatives together, connects capital between towns across the state, and sets a statewide vision for an interconnected bicycle network.
Over the next 6 weeks, we’ll be blogging a series entitled Three Grand Divisions, One Grand Vision: U.S. Bicycle Routes and Scenic Bikeways in Tennessee. We’ll share the process for selecting, formalizing, and promoting routes across Tennessee’s three Grand Divisions: West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and East Tennessee. We’ll seek your input and ideas for the best routes across the state. We’ll present ideas and strategies for what advocacy could look like for Tennessee’s small and medium sized communities. We’ll build something grand together.
photo credit: elle colquitt
More than 1230 cyclists and supporters from across the Southeast came together inChattanooga during the first weekend of May for the 28th Annual Three State Three MountainChallenge. Presented by the Chattanooga Bicycle Club and Rock/Creek, the Three State ThreeMountain Challenge is a bicycle race that features three courses—25 miles, 62 miles, or 100miles—and traverses Suck Creek Mountain, Sand Mountain and Lookout Mountain.
As with many rides and races, a non-profit was selected as the beneficiary of race proceeds.This year, Bike Walk Tennessee was selected as the beneficiary of the Three State ThreeMountain Challenge.
Bike Walk Tennessee was founded in 2009 and works as a statewide advocate for bicycling andwalking. Bike Walk Tennessee advocates for laws and infrastructure that protects cyclists andpedestrians, serves as a the fiscal agent for local groups like Bike Walk Chattanooga and BikeWalk Knoxville and leads statewide initiatives like the development of the U.S. Bicycle Routenetwork across the state.
"Bike Walk Tennessee is thrilled to accept this donation from the participants and partners of theThree State Three Mountain Challenge," said Matt Farr, Executive Director of Bike WalkTennessee. "Chattanooga is setting a high bar for cycling in Tennessee and the Southeast, andthis funding will be used to make cycling in Chattanooga even stronger by supporting thedevelopment of U.S. Bike Routes and Scenic Bikeways in the Greater Chattanooga area.”
About half of the money was raised when Rock/Creek and RootsRated teamed up to host a pintnight on the Friday before the event. These popular events ask for a donation in return for alimited-edition pint with sponsor logos. “Thanks to RootsRated, SweetWater Brewing Company,and Chattanooga Whiskey for helping us kick off the event and raise over $700 for pedestrianand bike advocacy,” said Mark McKnight from Rock/Creek.
Bike Walk Tennessee announces the hiring of Matt Farr as the organization’s first Executive Director. Founded in 2009, Bike Walk Tennessee is a 501(c)3 organization that advocates for better bicycling and walking in Tennessee. Relying on volunteer capacity, Bike Walk Tennessee has facilitated a jump in Tennessee’s Bicycle-Friendly State ranking from 43rd to 20th over the past five years, and has ushered a widespread resurgence in biking and walking throughout Tennessee’s urban areas. With dedicated staff capacity, Bike Walk Tennessee expects to be able to propel Tennessee into the national spotlight for innovative bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programming.
Matt Farr is a Memphis native, a graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, and currently resides in Nashville. He has a strong background in community outreach, fundraising, and program development gleaned from his positions as Development Manager with the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy in Memphis and Associate Director of Philanthropy with The Nature Conservancy in Nashville.
“It is such an honor to lead Bike Walk Tennessee,” said Farr. “Through the hard work and dedication of volunteer advocates who care deeply about their communities and state, Tennessee is positioned to be a national leader for active transportation. It is my goal to build upon the momentum they have created and work toward a statewide realization of the economic, social, health and environmental benefits that bicycling and walking have been proven to provide.”
Bike Walk Tennessee President Anthony Siracusa says Farr is uniquely equipped to build on recent momentum. “Matt is a natural relationship builder. He has been very successful in strengthening local advocates by connecting them to statewide work, and this exceptional leadership will – combined with his extensive experience in program development – help Bike Walk Tennessee to grow the number of people who walk and bike in our state.”
“Tennessee has made significant advances in providing more transportation choices over the past few years and we are thrilled to see Bike Walk Tennessee take this big step,” said Jessica Wilson, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “Bike Walk Tennessee is a valued partner and we look forward to working with Matt to make our communities across Tennessee safer for people who walk and bike”
Bike Walk Tennessee is currently undertaking multiple initiatives across the state that seek to enhance opportunities to enjoy Tennessee by bicycle or on foot. They are pioneering the U.S. Bike Route System in Tennessee, which will create designated routes between Tennessee’s cities and cities across the Southeast. They are working with small and medium sized communities to educate planners and engineers about the benefits of Complete Streets policies and practices. And they are bringing advocates and supporters across the state together with the annual Tennessee Bike Summit, now in its fifth year.
If you would like any information about Bike Walk TN, please feel free to email Matt at email@example.com.