Johnson City, Tennessee: Walking and Bicycling Path improves safety


Johnson City, Tenn., is an urban community with more than 65,000 residents. Along with Bristol and Kingsport, Tenn., Johnson City forms the tri-cities metro area, home to more than one million people.

Located within this community is Cherokee Elementary School, a school for children in grades kindergarten through fifth. Cherokee Elementary is the only school in the district lacking sidewalks from the neighborhood to the school building. In 2007, the City of Johnson City Planning Department applied for and received a $250,000 grant from the Tennessee Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program dedicated to creating sidewalks.


The planning department’s application for SRTS funding was based upon 20 years of comprehensive evaluation data on the Johnson City schools. The data documented the need, especially at Cherokee Elementary, for sidewalks to improve student safety. Using the data to support their proposal, the planning department applied for funds to build a shared-use path connecting a nearby neighborhood to the school. The path will provide students with a safer place to walk and bicycle when traveling to and from school.

In spring 2008, the Department of Public Works is scheduled to begin construction on a shared-use path that is planned to be 1,400-foot long and 10 feet wide. With a path this wide, pedestrians and bicyclists can pass each other safely instead of one person being forced to move off the path for the other’s passage. The path will begin at a main intersection in the neighborhood and will run adjacent to the main road leading to the school. It ends at the intersection in front of the school, where a crossing guard stands to direct the children safely across the street. Bicycle racks, purchased with city funds, will be placed at the end of the path. To encourage parents and students to use the path, promotional fliers will be mailed to the effected students’ homes.


This was the City of Johnson City Planning Department’s first attempt at applying for SRTS funding. They felt that the application’s success lay in the incorporation of data that that documented the historic conditions surrounding Cherokee Elementary. Because of the initial success and continued need for infrastructure improvements at Cherokee Elementary and other schools in the district, the Planning Department plans to reapply for SRTS funding for future projects.


George Morton, City of Johnson City Planning Department
P.O. Box 2150 Johnson City, TN 37605-2150
Phone: (423) 434-6071