Through a generous gift from the Lyndhurst Foundation, Bike Walk Tennessee and Thrive 2055 are proud to host the inaugural Southeast Regional Bicycle Tourism Summit in Chattanooga, TN on April 20-21 2016. This first-of-its-kind conference in the Southeast will bring together transportation, tourism and economic development officials from states across the region, as well as local stakeholders from the Greater Chattanooga area. The goal of the Summit is to share best practices for developing, designating, and promoting bicycle route networks and to begin articulating a broader vision for the role of bicycle tourism in the Southeast.
Bike Walk TN began focusing on bicycle tourism in 2014 with the designation of U.S. Bicycle Route 23, which runs north-south from Kentucky to Alabama through Nashville. The communities through which the route passes were very enthusiastic and embraced the concept, which inspired us to think bigger. In 2015, Bike Walk TN was awarded a grant from the Footprint Foundation in Chattanooga to develop USBR 21 and 121. USBR 21 runs north-south from Cleveland, OH to Atlanta, GA, passing through East Tennessee. USBR 121 connects Chattanooga to Nashville. In 2015, USBR 21 in Georgia was successfully designated and we anticipate designation of the Tennessee section in 2016. Our work on U.S. Bicycle Routes spurred larger conversations about the many attractions and destinations that may not fall within a USBR corridor. How do we connect people to those places? Hence, the creation of Tennessee Scenic Bikeways--a (currently) conceptual network of spurs and loops built on the backbone provided by the USBR network.
Of course, we started thinking bigger, and said "what if we could work towards developing a network of routes that spanned the entire Southeast?" And the Southeast Regional Bicycle Tourism Summit was born. Selecting a suitable route to be part of a network is just as important as developing creative ways to promote the network, and we figured that, through the SE Regional Bicycle Tourism Summit, we could share best practices for selecting and designating routes while also beginning to develop a vision for what bicycle tourism looks like in the Southeast and how our regional networks connect.