May was National Bike Month, and Knoxville’s participation showed how eager the community is to continue growing its bike culture. There were activities throughout the month with various events, rides, and classes that celebrated all kinds of people who ride bicycles. Several local businesses also contributed to the momentum by offering a discount to anyone displaying their I Bike KNX helmet sticker throughout the month. In order to receive a helmet sticker, people needed to sign the safe bicycling pledge and commit to following traffic laws and respecting others on the road. That pledge can be taken year-round online or in person at Mast General Store and Three Rivers Market during May.
The entire month was packed with activities, starting with the April 30 bike class at West Bikes in Farragut. At both this clinic and the one held on May 28, instructors focused on flat tire repair, gear and brake adjustments, pre-ride checklists, custom emergency tools and convenience kit recommendations to get riders comfortable and prepared. There were also bike rodeos in Maryville and Knoxville, encouraging children to learn the rules of the road, bike maintenance, and skills. The Maryville event was held at the Maryville Farmer’s Market and new helmets were given to children who had no helmet or one that was ill fitting. The Knoxville rodeo took place at the Let’s Move Event at Victor Ashe Park on May 7 and was one of 90 activity stations and healthy living demonstrations. While these events were unique to the area, the Maryville Ride of Silence on May 18 honoring cyclists who have been injured or killed by motor vehicles was one of 300 worldwide. It was a slow-paced 8-mile ride during which all riders were silent as they remembered those they were honoring.
The final celebration for the month was Bike to Work Day, which fell on May 19 for ORNL and June 3 for Knoxville (rescheduled from May due to forecasted bad weather). It was Knoxville’s 16th annual event. Bike commuters were encouraged to stop by Market Square for free coffee and breakfast provided by Trio Café and Wild Love Bakehouse. More than 50 people participated in the event, with convoys meeting and riding together from locations in north, south, east and west Knoxville. Others trickled in by themselves and in small groups, including individuals who had just taken their first bike commute and those who do it every day.
Smart Trips Awards were also given that morning, with some people winning challenges for the month and others receiving recognition for their commitment over the last five years. Smart Trips changed its logging system in 2011. Twenty-one Smart Trips participants have logged at least 500 days of bike commuting in that 5 years. Two of those have reached gold status for biking more than 1,000 days. Overall, the 21 bike commuters have ridden more than 640,000 miles, saved 15,000 gallons of gas, reduced more than 290,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, and saved nearly $270,000. May challenges included the longest commute, the most commutes recorded in the I Bike KNX app, the most social errands recorded in the app, and the most Smart Trips bike commutes logged. The winner of the longest bike commute, Terry Haywood, has a 33-mile roundtrip. The winner of the most Smart Trips bike commutes logged rode to work every single day in May to complete a project before vacation. ORNL, one of the top five ranked Smart Trips organizations, recognized two bike commuters at their celebration (see photo).
Kelley Segars, Principal Planner for the Transportation Planning Organization and I Bike KNX program coordinator, said, “Knoxville is a changing city. We are going green and becoming a healthier nation starting with every community.” It’s obvious that this is true in Knoxville, where May is just a spotlight on the year-round activity. Greenways and bike lanes are expanding and the people are eager to put them to use. It’s wonderful to see the efforts of I Bike KNX, Smart Trips, and countless other groups and individuals come together to get people not just thinking about alternative travel, but actually doing it.