John Harkey

May 8, 1945 - January 20, 2024


The Walk Bike Nashville community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of our long-time and beloved members, John Harkey. As a passionate advocate and two-time recipient of our Kibby Clayton Lifetime Achievement Award, John leaves behind a legacy of improved transportation options in this city. We will miss his support and feel immense gratitude for how tirelessly he worked to make Nashville more walkable, bikeable, and livable for all.

As a small tribute to the lasting impact he made on us all, we’ve compiled quotes and memories from a few of our members:


John was passionate about making Nashville safer, more accessible, and a better community. He was one of the most dedicated, reliable, and thoughtful Walk Bike Nashville advocates over the years, and helped with numerous policy efforts, rides and walks with elected officials, commission meetings, and campaigns for specific projects. Perhaps more importantly John's calm, warm presence made the walking and biking advocacy community a better place. His warm smile and persistent dedication will be sorely missed!

~Nora Kern, Denver MPO and former Walk Bike Executive Director


I first got to know John through his advocacy work with Walk Bike Nashville, and I subsequently had the honor of caring for his wife. John and Kathleen were two of the most inspiring people I've ever met. They were deeply devoted to each other, to their friends and family, and to their community.
As a neurologist, I walk beside people on their most difficult journeys. John navigated his wife's illness with incredible strength, love, and grace. He was a steadfast and tireless caregiver who always sought to find joy and hope, taking Kathleen for walks on the greenways and out to lunch at their favorite vegan restaurants. Their love for each other was truly an inspiration.
No matter what he was going through, John always made time to check in on his friends and ask how he could help with ongoing advocacy efforts. I will miss our conversations so much, but I know that he lives on in all of the people's lives that he touched.

~Katherine McDonell, Vanderbilt University Medical Center


As a government employee, an important goal is to engage the public in a meaningful way, a way that can influence policy and allocation of resources.  John make that easy.  He served as a member of the Greater Nashville Regional Council’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  He brought multiple perspectives to the table – that of a long-time Nashvillian, a data steward professional and a user/advocate of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  He always jumped in to provide assistance and made time in his schedule to show up for every meeting.  His commitment to making Nashville a more livable and equitable city was unparalleled.  He will be sorely missed.

~Leslie Meehan, Tennessee Department of Health


I got to know John while working at Metro Planning and attending meetings of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He was a great asset to committee discussions, and I saw his passion for cycling as he advocated for improvements in Nashville. He bounced back from a collision that motivated him to want to improve the city. John realized the change he could have in the city. Sometimes you get angry people at your door with issues, but John was always smiling and kind. He knew this was tough work. He will be greatly missed while leaving a legacy for others to continue his passion.

~Michael Briggs, Mayor’s Office and Vanderbilt University Transportation and Mobility Office


John was one of those truly rare, genuine folk. He cared deeply about making Nashville a better place, advocating relentlessly for cyclists, pedestrians, and bus riders. He was kind but persistent, and most importantly, he practiced what he espoused. I’d often see him biking around the city, or to public events, or just to meet for coffee. John’s strength was his inquisitive nature and his calm demeanor. I remember my first meeting with him when I was at WeGo (MTA). He took me aside after a public meeting and challenged us to do better for cyclists. He did this mostly through asking questions — insightful, thoughtful questions. His goal was understanding the hurdles and helping devise ways to overcome them. He wasn’t interested in blame, just coming up with solutions. Over the years of knowing John, I came to appreciate his dedication, his ever present smile, and his kind, kind, heart. He was a driving force in shaping Nashville for the better, and generations will bike and walk more safely and enjoyably because of him. We miss you John. May the wind be always at your back.

~Jim McAteer, Fairpointe Planning


Truly someone who gave selfless service to others - for the whole of his life.

~Robert Johnson, WeGo


Read John’s obituary here.