Hit and Run on Natchez Trace: It’s Up to Us.

Our thoughts go out to Tyler Noe and everyone at Walk Bike Nashville is wishing him a speedy recovery. Unfortunately, those of us who frequently ride bicycles know that Tyler is not alone. There usually isn’t a video, but every day our friends and family members are hit, nearly hit, or threatened while trying to get to work, visit friends, or stay healthy.

Events like this weekend’s hit and run on the Natchez Trace serve as sobering reminders of the heavy responsibility we all have to keep each other safe every time we sit behind a steering wheel. 

Our roads are a common good, shared between all people who chose to use them.  This includes bicycle riders, people walking, and people driving – each of whom has an equal right to our public right-of-ways.

If you have the privilege of driving a car, you have the responsibility to pay attention, put down the phone, and ensure that you do not hit another human being. Much can be achieved through safer street design, but ultimately each one of us responsible. We each need to remember that the other people out on the streets with us are just that: people, fellow human beings.

Every time the words “bicycle” and “Nashville” appear in the news, we get an alert. We hate that much of the time these alerts come because another person, another friend, has been hit by a car. Our only hope is that the attention to this this horrible situation can serve as opportunity for greater awareness of the rules of the road and a more honest and thoughtful conversation about the responsibility we all have for each other’s safety.

At Walk Bike Nashville we work each and every day to make our streets safer and more inviting to people on foot or bicycle. A lot has been achieved in Nashville over the past 5 years: a complete streets executive order, Nashville’s first protected bikelanes, record funding levels for active transportation, and more and more people opting to try leaving their cars at home.

But we clearly also have a long way to go. We hope all of you will join with us to continue to work to create streets that are safe for all, no matter who you are or where you’re trying to go.

TN Laws Concerning Bike Riders:

https://www.tn.gov/tdot/article/bikeped-bikelaws

  • A Bicycle has the legal status of a vehicle.  This means that bicyclists have full rights and responsibilities on the roadway  (Tenn. Code Ann. 55-8-172 (2011)
  • All vehicles must give bicycles at least three feet when passing
  • Bicycles have the right to ride two abreast within a single lane.
    • Note this is true in Davidson County, but in National Parks, including the Natchez Trace Parkway, federal regulations only allow riding single-file. See the federal rule here.
  • Bicycles May Use Full Lane
    • A common misconception is that a bicyclist must always ride as far to the right as practicable. There are many exceptions to this rule. If a lane is too narrow for a motorist to safely pass a bicyclist within the lane, the law has an exception that allows the bicyclist to use the full lane. This allows a bicyclist to communicate to a following motorist that it is not safe for the motorist to pass in the same lane. The motorist has to wait behind for a safe chance to pass. The nationwide consensus of transportation professionals, motorists and bicyclists is a lane must be 14 feet wide in order to allow a motorist and a bicyclist to safely travel side-by-side within the lane.

What to Do if You are in a Crash

If you or a friend is injured in a bicycling crash:

  • Call 911
  • Do not refuse medical care
  • Insist on a police report
  • Identify all parties and witnesses then seek advice from the advocacy community.

Filing a report is crucial in any bicycle/car crash. Even if no one is injured it provides a record of the crash and the location, helping further advocacy initiatives in our communities.

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