Bicycle riders of all ages, experience levels and interest in donning costumes are invited to join the 11th annual Tour de Lights bicycle parade, Friday, Dec. 15, beginning and ending in Market Square.


Beginning at 5:30 p.m., riders who want to be in the decorating contest should check in at the photo booth, where celebrity judges including Michele Silva of B97.5 FM and Erin Slocum of Knoxville Weekend, will consider riders’ costumes and bike decorations for awards in the following categories: Best Costume (Adult and Child), Best Bicycle and/or Trailer, Best Helmet, Best Group with Theme, and Best All Around. Winners will be announced after the ride (approximately 8:15 p.m.). Free bike safety checks are also available before the ride.


This year, pre-parade staging has been adjusted to fit the event’s popularity.


“With each year’s turnout averaging about 1,000 riders, we’ve been challenged to adapt how we stage the different kinds of bicyclists,” says Kelley Segars, manager of the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission’s regional I Bike KNX program. “After surveying participants and discussing with event planners, we’ve made some revisions to increase the safety and enjoyment of Tour de Lights.”


Experienced bicyclists will line up on Wall Avenue between Gay Street and the alley behind Blue Coast Grill and Bar, and be the first to depart at 7 p.m. Groups in themed costumes will gather on the east side of the Market Square stage and leave next. Beginner bicyclists and families with young kids will gather on the west side of the stage and leave last. Volunteers will be on hand to help participants find the correct gathering areas.


KPD officers will occasionally stop riders to let traffic through, particularly KAT buses on Broadway and other main thoroughfares. The route has also changed direction within Old North Knoxville to avoid sending riders up a steep hill.


At the end of the parade in Market Square, Mast General Store and Three Rivers Market will provide hot cocoa and cookies for participants. Sponsors for this year’s Tour de Lights are Mast General Store, Three Rivers Market, Graphic Creations, and the Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee.


Motorists along the parade route can anticipate some street closures during the ride. Wall Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic starting at 6 p.m, however traffic from Market Square Garage will be allowed to exit to Walnut; alternate access to the garage is available via Walnut Street. A rolling roadblock will be in effect along the parade route between 7 and 8 p.m., with occasional delays at major intersections, including Summit Hill Drive and Gay Street, Fifth Avenue and Gay, Central Street and Fourth Avenue, Wells Avenue at Broadway, and Glenwood Avenue at Broadway. Patience from neighbors along the route is requested, and access to driveways will be allowed by officers when there are gaps in the parade.


All ages and skill levels are welcome. For more information, including parking information and updated route and detour maps, visit Tag your Tour de Lights tweets with #christmasinthecity and Instagram posts with @KnoxvilleCity and #tourdelights!