The First Tour de Nash: May 2004

Reflections from Glen Wanner, founding Walk Bike Nashville board member, first Tour de Nash coordinator, past WBN President


The first Tour de Nash occurred in 2004 during the term of Mayor Purcell. A partnership with Metro Planning, Metro Health, and Walk Bike Nashville had just received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. At that point in time, the Shelby Bottoms Greenway was open to the Forrest Green Trailhead and there were bike lanes on either side of Davidson Street heading from the East Bank (now Nissan Stadium) to Shelby Park. Today, this street has been reconfigured with a two-way greenway on the river side of the street. After much controversy, bike lanes were put in on Belmont Blvd as well as Music Row which is 16th and 17th Ave. There was also a new greenway along the Metro Center Levee.

The all-volunteer leadership of Walk Bike Nashville decided we needed an event to celebrate our new (and really first ever) bike lanes as well as our growing greenway system. My original idea was to call this ride the “Tour de Nashville.” Lance Armstrong had won seven consecutive Tour de France titles up until 2005. He was a national hero so using the French “Tour de” for our ride name made perfect sense.

Our original ride was to be a leisurely urban tour which was not something most cycling enthusiast would dream of doing in Middle Tennessee. Cyclists went out to the rural country roads to bicycle. Riding in the city was not something most cyclists wanted to do. Those who did ride in urban areas often rode because of necessity, not choice. The leadership of WBN wanted to change this perception.

The first Tour de Nash took place on the East Bank starting in the parking lots by the stadium. Mayor Purcell had agreed to attend the first ride. We were hoping for 40 to 50 cyclists for this first ride. There was no registration and the ride was free. WBN was planning to provide some SAG support and rest stops. Our goal was to draw cycling enthusiasts as well as novice riders. Toks Omishakin, the bicycle coordinator for Metro Planning, was a great ally in planning this event. Toks volunteered to come up with a graphic for the Tour de Nashville. When I finally saw the graphic he had come up with, the name of the ride was the “Tour de Nash.” I asked Toks why he had changed the original name, and his reply was that he could not fit “Nashville” into the design. Thus, the name “Tour de Nash” came into being.

Toks eventually went on to work in the top administration level at TDOT before being appointed as the director of Caltrans (California DOT) in 2022. While we were hoping for 50 riders at our inaugural event, we ended up having at least 200 riders 

show up. WBN volunteers were scrambling to nearby convenience stores to buy food and drinks on the morning of the ride.

In the following years, we began charging a registration fee for the longer routes but kept the shorter route (family ride) free. The idea was that cycling enthusiasts would gladly support our efforts for a more bike-able city while encouraging novice riders to participate in the Tour de Nash. At the end of our first TDN, I asked the longer route participants if they would be willing to pay a fee for this event even if the short ride was still free. Everyone answered they would be happy to do so. As far as I know, we never had a complaint about this arrangement.

Since 2004, Tour de Nash has been known as Nashville's largest urban bike ride. It remains a non-competitive ride that highlights our city's neighborhoods via the growing network of bikeways and greenways. Although COVID altered the event format with dispersed starts for several years, 2010 was the only year that Walk Bike Nashville did not host Tour de Nash. The Tennessee floods in early May of that year forced the cancellation of the event.

As Walk Bike Nashville's largest fundraiser, registration fees are currently charged for all route options to cover our event expenses and raise money for the important work we do. There is a $20 T-shirt-only option. And if you're unable to pay the registration fee to ride, we ask that you use the donation option to pay what you can, but all event details are posted publicly including the routes. Rider packets and event T-shirts are reserved for registered riders. We are also excited to add Open Streets to this year's event. The half-mile Open Street is free and open to all to walk, ride, and enjoy from 7am to 2pm. 

For the last two years, the Nashville Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure has partnered with Walk Bike Nashville to help ensure that the 9-mile City Tour is truly an all ages, all abilities ride. Low stress routes are chosen and temporary infrastructure is installed where connections are missing.

In 2024, the start and finish line will feature a half-mile Open Street aspect for the first time, allowing for a large, car-free space for riders and the general public to celebrate in the street on this annual day for people on bikes.