The U.S. Bicycle Route System in Tennessee



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.