In recent years—and in weather that would daunt Santa himself—approximately 1,000 riders have participated in downtown’s popular Tour de Lights holiday bicycle ride. For the 12th annual Tour de Lights on Friday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m., organizers are introducing a few changes to better accommodate the crowds and participants of all ages and paces.
Event organizer I Bike Knx, the group within the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization that promotes bicycling, will set up two staging areas: one near the Market Square stage that will be open before and after the ride, and another near the Krutch Park entrance, which will be open only before the ride. Beginning at 6:15 p.m., each staging area will host a photo booth, bike-safety checks operated by Kickstand and Fountain City Pedaler, and refreshments provided by Three Rivers Market and Mast General Store.
Tour de Lights riders should plan ahead when choosing where to assemble starting at 7:15 p.m. to begin the ride at 7:30 p.m.:
- Experienced riders—those who are confident on bicycles and riding in large crowds—will line up on Wall Avenue between Gay and Walnut streets;
- Families, themed/costumed groups, and beginner riders will line up on Union Avenue between Gay and Market streets and, as crowds necessitate, down Market toward Clinch Avenue.
Downtown drivers, including those coming for the bike ride, can anticipate closures of several downtown blocks mentioned above and shown on the map at www.ibikeknx.com/tourdelights starting at 6:30 p.m. That page also includes suggestions for free parking alternatives to the State Street Garage, which is under construction, and Market Square Garage, which regularly fills to capacity by early evening.
At 7:30 p.m. volunteers will assist riders in making a safe and organized exit from Wall and Union avenues onto Gay Street. Knoxville Police Department escorts will establish rolling roadblocks around the parade as it proceeds along the five-mile route that takes riders through the Fourth and Gill and Historic North Knoxville neighborhoods. During gaps in the parade, officers will allow cars to cross the parade route at busy intersections, like Broadway at Glenwood or Central Street and Fourth Avenue.
Tradition holds that neighbors on the Tour de Lights route line the sidewalks and front yards to cheer on the riders. A new tradition begins this year with Vienna Coffee at the Regas Building staying open until 8:30 p.m. to host Tour de Lights observers who want to watch from indoors.
Riders returning to Market Square will be met with a photo booth and refreshments at the Market Square stage location. Judges will announce winners of the Best Themed Group award at 8:45 p.m.
Additional awards for Best Costume (Adult), Best Costume (Child), Best Bicycle and/or Trailer, Best Helmet and Best Overall will be determined by judges after the event based on photo booth pictures taken that night, either before and after the ride. And a People’s Choice winner will be named based on the most likes received on the photo shared on the Tour de Lights Facebook page (Facebook.com/tourdelights). Judging will be open from 12 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, to 12 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Riders of all ages and skill levels are welcome to participate. Bikes are required to have a white front headlight and a red rear reflector, and children under 16 are required to wear helmets. All riders are encouraged to wear helmets.
For more information, including updates, visit www.ibikeknx.com/tourdelights. Tag your Tour de Lights tweets with #christmasinthecity and Instagram posts with @KnoxvilleCity and #tourdelights!
Support for Tour de Lights comes from the City of Knoxville and the Epilepsy Foundation of Tennessee.