What is the US Bicycle Route System?
The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a developing national network of officially numbered interstate bicycle routes that connect America’s cities, suburbs, and rural areas. To date, 6,790 miles of U.S. Bike Routes have been established in 15 states: Alaska, Kentucky, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia. Presently, more than 40 states are working to create U.S. Bicycle Routes.
U.S. Bicycle Routes are designated by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the lead non-profit organization supporting state DOTs. Their guidelines suggests that routes access destinations and regions with high tourism potential; include routes that incorporate important scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational values; link major metropolitan areas to connect key attractions and transportation nodes; be reasonably direct in connecting cities or attractions.
Tennessee’s First US Bike Route links Kentucky and Alabama
Tennessee’s first US Bicycle Route was assigned in October 2013. TDOT worked with Bike Walk Tennessee to successfully designate US Bicycle Route 23 in Middle Tennessee. The route covers 154 miles as it connects at the Kentucky border where it joins Kentucky’s existing Mammoth Cave State Bicycle Route, runs through middle Tennessee and connects in Ardmore, Alabama. Heading south from Kentucky, USBR 23 begins in rural Robertson County before passing through the community of White House with its marked bicycle lanes. From there the route enters metropolitan Nashville, traveling through residential neighborhoods and past unique culinary establishments through East Nashville, Downtown, The Gulch, and Midtown. The route then cuts through the heart of Nashville’s music scene past the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and dozens of local clubs, as well as skirting several universities including Vanderbilt, Belmont, Libscomb, and Fisk. Leaving Nashville, cyclists have the option to take a three-mile spur to connect with the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway, or continue on USBR 23 south through Franklin, which features several Civil War historic sites and a wonderful downtown. The route south of Franklin is rural and very scenic; there, a second spur connects to food and lodging at Henry Horton State Park, Chapel Hill, and Lewisburg. U.S. Bicycle Route 23 enters Alabama at Ardmore, a city whose main street is also the Tennessee-Alabama state line.
Tennessee Section of US Bike Route 21, 121, and 80
The Tennessee section of USBR 21 runs from the Kentucky state line starting at Jellico, south to Caryville, Norris, Knoxville, Maryville, Vonore, Madisonville, Athens, Charleston, Cleveland, and Chattanooga then connects with the Georgia section at the state line. USBR 121 will connect Nashville and Chattanooga while USBR 80 winds from Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, to Bristol and the Virginia border. I’m excited to be part of this planning process! Currently, I’ve been working on USBR 21 and have created two pages detailing the route (to minimize length of pages) — Jellico to Knoxville and Knox to Chatt.
Links to Map, Cue Sheet, and Points of Interest
Click here for a link to the full route, map and elevation along with the gpx track. Since I prefer to make my own cue sheet, here is a link to the cuesheets for both the full route with spurs to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Foothills Parkway, and Tellico Plains. Along with the cue sheet are overview maps, a list of bike shops, state parks, and points of interest along the way — USBR21-CueSheet-KY-GA.
We hope you will share this route with your cycling friends and clubs. We’ll keep you up to date as the route moves along the course to becoming a signed US Bicycle Route! We invite cyclists to ride the route, or sections of the route, and share suggestions and comments. Please direct comments and questions to Matt Farr, Executive Director of Bike Walk Tennessee at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also invite you to join the US Bike Routes 21/121 and 80 Facebook Group page.