The seventh annual Tour de Lights was held last night and I wasn’t there. Listen closely and you can hear me grumble. I’ve been to the last several and I really hated to miss this one. I’m not a biker, but I’m coming to understand that bicycles are an important part of a sustainable transportation system in a healthy urban environment. I don’t rule out the possibility of strapping on a helmet at some point in the future.
My journey to paying attention to biking culture started six or eight years ago when Shaft coerced me into watching a little of the Tour de France. As I grew to understand it a bit more (though it still often baffles me) and as I fell more in love with France, watching the tour has become an important part of any summer for our entire family.
It was, I think, three years ago that Shaft considered taking Urban Girl on the Tour de Lights and that was the first I’d heard of it. He was going to be Ebeneezer Scrooge and she Tiny Tim. That didn’t happen, but it tuned me into the Tour de Lights and I’ve loved looking at the bikes and riders every year since.
I’ve also been schooled a bit by my friend Kelly Segars about the importance of bicyclists in an urban environment. When Jeff Speck was here he also emphasized the importance of increasing Knoxville’s cycling culture. It seems to be growing as evidenced by more cyclists downtown and more cycling-related businesses springing up in every direction. The bike racks around downtown are generally in use most any time I look.
One cool local effort that has recently undergone a bit of a transition is the group Kickstand. This great organization teaches people how to repair bikes, as well as all manner of other cycling education. An individual may even be able to earn a bike by working on others. And that’s the focus: Getting bikes into the hands of those who need them. For some people bicycle ownership can open entire new employment possibilities as they are able to travel a greater distance to a job and to complete that commute at no cost. Kickstand will soon open at a new location at 1323 N. Broadway behind the 4th United Presbyterian Church at the corner of Glenwood and Broadway (corrected from a previous address). Check them out.
I’m told that somewhere north of five hundred cyclists joined the craziness of the Tour de Lights this year. They were treated to a five mile ride over closed roads starting on Market Square, moving down Gay Street and then traveling all about the downtown and nearby areas before ending up back in the center city for hot chocolate and treats.
The event is officially hosted by City of Knoxville and the Knoxville Regional Bicycle Program, with sponsorship provided by the Central Business Improvement District, Mast General Store, Three Rivers Market, Knox Revolution, and the Smoky Mountain Wheelmen. If you missed it this year, you might consider coming out for it next December. I can tell you right now, that’s where I plan to be.
A special “thank you” goes out to downtown resident, excellent photographer, Inside of Knoxville reader and my friend, Dash Roberts, for providing these photographs for today’s blog. Without his work you would not gotten to enjoy the tour on my blog. I very much appreciate the help my friends and readers offer. It’s the kind of thing you come to expect when you live in downtown Knoxville and it is a very valuable part of our version of urban living.