The TPO bids farewell to Kelley Segars

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The TPO bids farewell to Kelley Segars

Kelley has spearheaded many significant initiatives in her 17 years with the TPO. She established and continued to expand I Bike KNX, the regional bicycle program, and the Smart Trips program. During her tenure with us, she has served as section director of the Tennessee chapter of American Planning Association, and coordinated a joint conference of the TN chapters of the APA, Institute of Transportation Engineers, and American Society of Landscape Architects. She also played a significant role in expanding the outreach and community engagement of the TPO, including for the most recent Mobility Plan. And now, a message from her:

Looking Back, Moving Forward

I'm both sad and excited to leave such a wonderful job with incredible co-workers. I plan to take a sabbatical to enjoy my daughter’s last year in elementary school, get our house and yard organized, and figure out what I would like to do next (when I grow up?).


When I moved to Knoxville in 2001 for this job, I could literally count on one hand the number of people I saw on bicycles downtown in a whole day. Bike commuting is normally a solitary thing, but back then, it was downright lonely. (I had moved from Missoula, MT which is a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community!)


One of my first assignments was staff liaison for a newly formed Bicycle Advisory Committee. Some of the founding members of the BAC will sound familiar – Caroline Cooley, Jim Hagerman and Steve Bacon, for a few. As the years went on, I kept asking Jeff Welch, my supervisor, questions. Can I apply for a grant for bike racks? Can I call this a bicycle program? Can we produce a bike map? Can we count bicyclists and pedestrians? Can we have our own website? Luckily he is the best boss in the world, and he kept saying yes.


And over the years, the Knoxville Regional Bicycle Program (quite a mouthful, right?) transformed to I Bike KNX. Those of you who know me know that I am not one for the spotlight or to talk about myself, but just this once, I’ll go through some of my favorite accomplishments. I started a Bicycling Ambassadors program to do community outreach and safety education, modeling it on a program in Chicago. Tour de Lights began with about 100 people in 2007, and now draws more than 1,000 participants, no matter what the temperature. December 14, 2018 will be the 12th Tour de Lights! Seeing the smiles of participants and spectators during the event is an incredible experience. I’ve managed 17 Bike to Work Day events (I missed the first one in Knoxville by a few months, so there have been 18 total.). In 2011 we expanded to celebrate Bike Month throughout all of May instead of limiting it to one day. Our bike parking grant program has resulted in more than 740 bike racks getting installed since 2005. Our “Sharing the Road with Bicyclists and Pedestrians” presentation has been given to more than 7,500 high school students since 2011 (thanks to an idea from Mike and Paige Winck, who have presented to about half of those students!). We’ve been conducting counts of bicyclists and pedestrians twice a year since 2005. More than 30,000 copies of the Knoxville Bicycle Map (four different editions) have been distributed since 2005.


The best things happen when our work spurs or contributes to other efforts. We have had a great partnership with the Knox County Health Department since I started here, way ahead of the curve for transportation-land use-health coordination, thanks to the vision of Stephanie Welch. And when a certain candidate was running for mayor, she called to ask how to make Knoxville more bicycle friendly. My number one recommendation was to have a City bicycle coordinator. As the City’s Transportation Alternatives Engineer, Jon Livengood has made significant progress in the number of bike lanes, and ensures bicycling is included in all levels of discussion. And, our bicycling community finally got large enough to warrant the start of an advocacy organization – Bike Walk Knoxville, led by founding BAC member Caroline Cooley. I was happy to help Bike Walk Knoxville turn Open Streets Knoxville from a dream into a very popular reality in 2015.


There are also some things we tried and had to cancel. Remember the Neighborhood Bike Rides? They were very popular at first, when there were not really any other community, beginner rides happening. I think we peaked at about 350 participants. We had some fun with the posters (this was my fav)! And then, as other bike rides picked up, our participation dropped. We also tried a Summer Bike Ride series, which people loved, but it was a lot of work for a small return. (Bike Walk Knoxville has picked up the torch, though, and hosts a Bike Ride with Elected Officials each year and DreamBikes leads weekly community rides in the summer.) We hosted a few Bike Festivals as part of Bike Month, but again, it was hard to draw many participants. We kept experimenting, but always reviewed results and re-focused on what worked best.


I also wrote a grant to start our Smart Trips program. We began with a part-time coordinator and have expanded to more than one full-time position. The program now offers rewards for all types of trips, not just commutes. It’s hard to believe 2018 is the 15th anniversary of Smart Trips! I don’t have precise numbers for the whole 15 years, but participants have saved at least 4,000 metric tons (more than 8 million pounds) of greenhouse gases from being produced since we started an online logging system.


Of course, none of this would have been possible without the hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication of great co-workers, staff from partner agencies, volunteers, and advocates. I think my greatest accomplishments have been when I’ve been able to connect people and coordinate efforts – leveraging all of our efforts together accomplishes incredible things! I’m so happy to have worked with all of you to make our community more healthy and livable.


Best wishes,