The City of Huntsville covers approximately 200 square miles. Many of our residential areas are composed of single family homes. That means distances between destinations, such as shopping, work, or entertainment centers can be longer than more compact urban centers. On the other hand, many of our neighborhoods are interconnected and have numerous small streets with low speeds (25-35) and low traffic volumes. In general, it is about 15-20 miles from north to south and east to west. Downtown destinations are within 7-10 miles from most places in Huntsville. Using smaller residential streets can enable a bicyclist to transverse a great deal of the city with a minimum amount of navigating major streets.
The following is a description of the biking conditions of some of the major neighborhoods in the Huntsville area.
East of Mt. Sano and Green Mountain
There are five routes to cross the mountain range. These routes are explained in greater depth on the Riding In page of this site. There are several greenways and numerous residential streets that connect together. Use Google and the bike route map to work out some choice routes from here to there.
This area is rapidly developing an urban character with schools, residential subdivisions, shopping, traffic volume increases, and road expansion. The shopping area centered around the Highway 431 and Sutton Road intersection has become very busy. Bicyclists need to ride with maximum awareness of what’s around them, be predictable, and practice excellent traffic skills.
At one time Big Cove Road was a sweet rural two lane road. With the additional loads of traffic, it still is at times, but one needs to keep their eyes and ears alert. The SCCC recreational routes in this area offer many suggestions for road choices between Hampton Cove, New Hope, Owens Cross Roads, Gurley, Guntersville dam, Grant, Maysville, New Market, Scottsboro, and onward to the north, east, and south.
Southeast Huntsville – East of Memorial Parkway – South of Governors Drive
This area of town has many very nice low speed, low traffic streets that connect neighborhoods and greenways. There are numerous destinations, including shopping, theaters, restaurants, public libraries, churches, parks, and members-only swim pools. Many of them are accessible with a minimum use of arterial streets.
There are a series of hills that one has to decide whether to go around, climb, or cross. Bicycling routes have been devised to go north to south on either side of these hills. Other routes cross them at the best suitable locations.
Several of the arterial roads are also bicycle routes but don’t have bike lanes or shoulders. Sometimes the bike routes employ these arterials briefly, other times for some distance. These can be busy at peak commute times and therefore employing strong traffic skills, being predictable and visible is best. There is no truck traffic (other than local deliveries) in this part of town.
Most of Cecil Ashburn has generous paved shoulders, but the section between Jones Valley and Donnegal Street does not. Going eastward some cyclists prefer to avoid the ascent on that section. Instead, they opt to use the neighborhood just west of this section. The last 100 feet is steep and you may have to walk your bicycle up to the Cecil Ashburn and Donnegal intersection. Eastward from that same intersection is mostly paved shoulders with one or two short non-shouldered portions.
Going west, there is ample room to descend into Jones Valley. The views are expansive and well worth the climbing work to see them. At the top of Blevins Gap is the Land Trust parking lot for the trail head to several nice hiking trails with spectacular views.
Just north of Martin Road and Cole Drive there is an east/west tunnel under Whitesburg. This is a popular way to cross Whitesburg to reach the school, church, swim pool, and Fern ball fields. There is a 90 degree turn at the east entrance. Approach it cautiously as no one can see others around the corner. This route also allows one to continue north through neighborhoods west of Whitesburg Drive.
Going north or south, crossing Airport Road or Carl T. Jones the bicycle routes employ Garth Road and Queensbury Drive to Chateau Drive. Garth Road is beautiful, but if you want to go west, you will need to do so on Drake which has a hill climb. The Queensbury to Chateau Drive option entails navigating Airport Road for one block. One can either use the left hand turn lane on Airport Road or go east to the Catholic Church parking lot exit directly south of Chateau Drive.
Once across Airport Road, the bike routes employ neighborhood streets to cross Drake, Bob Wallace, and Governors Drive all the way to downtown. If one lives south of Governors Drive and north of Drake Avenue, most cyclists ride through the neighborhoods west of Whitesburg to go north, as there is no connection or ability to cross Governors east of Whitesburg.
In summary, a cyclist can utilize many residential streets to go from Ditto Landing to downtown which is about 15 miles total distance. It can be done with a minimum of terrain on the west side of the hills or be done with some terrain in the Jones Valley area.
South Huntsville – West of Memorial Parkway and South of Martin Road
This part of Huntsville has many connecting residential neighborhoods between the arsenal and other parts of town. Schools, shopping, parks, swim pools, libraries, ball fields, and restaurants are available.
From Martin Road southward one can ride through neighbor streets all the way south to near the Tennessee River without the need to cross Memorial Parkway. There are two exceptions to this claim. To go south from Cameron Road, one rides south through Haysland Square Shopping Mall and Hamilton Square Shopping Center to National Boulevard. From there one can go around the west side of Sam’s to SW Meadowbrook Drive.
Once at Memorial Parkway, one makes a decision: go south on Memorial Parkway for about 200’ to Mythewood or walk/ride on the grass on the west side. After that, collectors and residential streets provide passage.
To go north of Martin Road, one can go east across Memorial Parkway via Lily Flagg or Byrd Springs to Whitesburg to join Route 55.
Blossomwood, Twickingham, 5 Points, Chapman, Mt. Sano
These well established neighborhoods have many connections between them, but there are a few pointers to make. Bankhead Parkway is the main bicyclist route to the top of Mt. Sano where the parks and Land Trust properties attractive destinations are located. The short road distance between Gaslight Way and the Land Trust parking lot is the most difficult, as there is no shoulder, there is a curve with low visibility, and it starts to get a bit steep. It has a maximum 6% grade and is two lanes with a set of ‘S’ curves. Knowledge about good lane positioning is desirable.
Going north from Blossomwood to 5 Points, cutting through the Maple Hill Cemetery, is a beautiful and quiet option. Otherwise a climb from Owens Road to Toll House Road or heading west into the Twickingham district and then north are the options.
If one is heading eastward over High Mountain Road, Gladstone is an excellent way to get close to the top of Maysville Road. It crosses Chapman Avenue, which connects to Waltham Drive via a tunnel under Interstate 565 to north Huntsville.
Neighborhoods East of Redstone Arsenal, South of University, West of Memorial Parkway
These neighborhoods include Merrimack Historical District, Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment, Big Spring Park, Senior Center, The Botanical Gardens, ball fields, schools, public swim pool (Natatorium), John Hunt Park, tennis courts, restaurants, and small parks.
There are some very nice neighborhood streets that can be used to approach Redstone Arsenal gates 8 and 10 from the north or east. Going east and west, 9th Street and Governors House are a nice combination to go from downtown to Sparkman Drive.