Over the summer the Parks Board and the Greenways and Open Space Commission considered a proposal to change their Greenway rules to specifically allow ebikes. The request came from Nashville B-Cycle, which has returned to Nashville with a fleet of 300 pedal-assist bikes this summer. Both requests to the Parks Board and the Greenways and Open Space Commissions have been deferred, pending the completion of a study of e-bikes on greenways.
Since the topic was initial raised, a few things have been clarified and a few new questions were raised. We support this formal rule change, as it aligns with state law. Read on to learn more.
Clarification from Metro Legal -- E-bikes are Legally Bicycles
In August Walk Bike Nashville participated in a stakeholder meeting with the Mayor's office, Metro Parks, and Greenways for Nashville to discuss electric bikes on greenways. In this meeting Metro Legal clarified that per state law electric bikes are not motor vehicles (and therefore not included in the Greenways ban on motorized vehicles), and that state law specifically states that Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are allowed on all multi-use paths open to bicycles.
If you have a personal Class 1 or 2 e-bike, you can legally ride it anywhere in Nashville a bicycle is allowed to go. Like all bicycles, when on a greenway you should observe the mph speed limit and respect other users.
Ebikes are Bikes: A Brief History
E-bikes have been growing in popularity in Nashville and around the country over the last ten years. 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.
B-Cycles are Still Not Allowed on Greenways
Walk Bike Nashville Supports the Request to Allow B-Cycles and All Class 1/2 Ebikes on 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.
- Ebikes are legally bikes in Tennessee. B-Cycles bikes are pedal assist bikes (ie the electric assist only works when pedaling), and the assist is capped at 15 mph. There is no reason they should not also be allowed on Greenways.
What YOU can do
Share your e-bike story! We're collecting stories about e-bikes in Nashville -- if you have one to share please fill out this short form.
Interested in helping advocate for e-bikes? Email us to let us know, and we'll add your to our e-bike volunteer team.
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