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Knoxville's biking priorities take shape ahead of summit

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Knoxville will host the fourth annual Tennessee Bike Summit April 23-24 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Cyclists, planners, engineers and government officials will gather to attend sessions and workshops on advocacy, education, planning and infrastructure.

Ahead of that event, the city has released a list of 20 bicycle-friendly improvements it's prioritizing for the next few years -- out of 120 that were recommended in a recent study.

Topping the list is a plan to widen the stretch of Chapman Highway that cyclists take to get across the Henley Bridge to UT or downtown destinations and add a dedicated bike lane.

Photo: University of Tennessee student Christopher Allen bikes on the sidewalk en route to campus last week on Chapman Highway. The city has completed a study recommending  upgrades to Knoxville's bicycle infrastructure, including a $700,000 Chapman Highway project the city hopes to fund with a federal grant distributed through TDOT. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

The proposed 1.2 mile bike lane would cost $666,500, which the city hopes to fund with a federal grant.

Other top projects include connecting the Third Creek Greenway at Tyson Park to Fort Sanders, and connecting the Middlebrook Pike Greenway to Victor Ashe Park -- a combined price tag of about $1.8 million.

City officials say it will take years -- maybe decades -- to address all the city's needs, but having the list gives planners specific needs to work with, which could help when it's time to ask for funds.

The first 20 projects are estimated to cost $7.6 million over the next five years. That's about $1.5 million a year compared to the $250,000 Knoxville budgeted for bike improvements in 2015. The full list of more than 100 improvements would cost $38 million.

The city will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. today at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 Gay St., to discuss the project list and a 41-page bicycle facilities plan that goes along with it. The meeting will include a presentation on the plan and an open-house style forum with consultants and staff.

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