Next week on July 6th, the Nashville Parks board will consider a rules change/update to allow Class 1 pedal-assist E-bikes on Nashville Greenways. The request comes from B-Cycle, which is planning to restart in Nashville with a fleet of 300 pedal-assist bikes starting this summer. We support this request, read on to learn why.
Ebikes are Bikes A brief history
E-bikes have been growing in popularity in Nashville and around the country over the last ten years. Initially, there was a lot of confusion nationwide around how to classify e-bikes. Recently, there has been a national push to classify e-bikes into three classes based on speed, power, and whether or not they have a throttle (read more about the three classes here).
Today 43 states, including Tennessee, have laws that regulate e-assist bikes using the three-class systems. Tennessee state law, like most states, states that Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are not regulated as “motorized vehicles” but rather as bicycles, and allowed to use any bike lane or path open to regular bikes unless regulated by local ordinance. You can read the full TN law here.
In Nashville, the Greenways are part of the Nashville Metro Parks, which have long had a rule that excluded motorized vehicles. The Greenways department has interpreted this to exclude e-bikes from the greenway system.
Walk Bike Nashville supports the request to allow Class 1 Ebikes on Nashville Greenways.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Pedal assist e-bikes operate like bikes. They are not louder than bikes, they are not faster than other bikes on the greenways, they are not any bigger than other bikes, and they still require pedaling. The only difference is they make it easier to pedal. We don’t think we should regulate bikes based on how hard someone is working.
- E-bikes are incredible tools in expanding biking to more people of a wider range of ages and abilities, and expanding the types of trips people can take by bike. From our experience, e-bikes are particularly popular with older riders, newer riders, riders concerned about not being sufficiently fit, parents riding with kids, and people using bikes for transportation. E-bikes help more people get out on bikes, and help people go farther. Those are both great things!
- E-bikes are safe. We are walkers first, bike riders second. Pedal assist bikes do not pose any risk to people walking on Greenways. Studies show that ebikes are as safe as regular bikes, and that on non-motorized paths traditional bikes actually travel faster than e-bikes (check out this cool study by Tennessee's own Dr. Chris Cherry).
- Regulating e-bikes as bikes is now standard. Luckily we can look to the experiences of cities across the country to understand that ebikes are working well on greenways. 43 states allow ebikes on multi-use paths. We are not aware of a city that currently does not allow class 1 e-bikes on greenways -- Seattle, Denver, Charlotte, the entire East Coast Greenway network, Atlanta, Memphis, Chattanooga, Portland, all allow ebikes on greenways and many have for many years.
- We are THRILLED about the return of BCycle and their all-electric fleet. We’ve missed having BCycle bikes in Nashville during the last year. They are a fantastic way to provide bikes to more people in an affordable way. We especially like BCycle bikes as a resource for those just getting into biking and those looking to make short trips around town for transportation. But let’s be honest, the old BCycle bikes were pretty heavy, and Nashville is hilly and hot. Pedal-assist BCycle bikes will be more accessible, allow people to ride farther, and be an even more valuable means of transportation on hot Nashville days. We also know e-bikes are expensive. Having a publicly available pedal-assist bike share option will make e-bikes more equitably accessible to all Nashvillians -- regardless of fitness, age, ability, or income.
What YOU can do
We need YOU to share your thoughts with the Parks Board. The more personal stories they receive, the better!
- What: Email the Parks board with your thoughts about allowing class 1 e-bikes on the greenway. Keep it short, keep it personal,
- When: The meeting is on July 6th at noon. So you should email before then!
- Who: The Parks Board Members
Find the list of the Parks Board members here