Bicycling Magazine just released its latest ranking of the top 50 cities for bicycling. Despite being the "It City", Nashville didn't make the cut. While it is always sad to not be included in a best of list, we think this provides good motivation to step up Nashville's bicycling-game. We have a lot more work to do to make Nashville a great city for bicycling (and walking) for all.
We can learn a lot from these other 50 cities and hope our city leaders are ready to take these lessons to heart.
Here are our 5 recommendations for making it on to the top 50 list next year.
1. Dedicate funding to stand-alone bike projects.
Metro Nashville's budget currently does not include dedicated funding for bike projects. It is no surprise then, that the vast majority of bike lane projects in Nashville come as part of larger road-paving projects. While we are all for adding bike lanes when the opportunity is presented by a repaving project, it is time for Nashville to seriously invest in the bicycling projects that complete our bikeways networks, not just the projects that are convenient. We need dedicated funds in the city budget for bicycling. Mayor Barry, let's copy Rahm Emmanuel, Mayor of Chicago--#1 city for bicycling, who made good on his promise to building 100 miles of protected bike lanes in his first term.
2. Focus more on major barriers to biking than on miles of bike lanes.
While we want Nashville to build more bike lanes, it is also important that these bike lanes connect and form a safe network for bicycling. Far too often Nashville bike lanes end at the trickiest part of the route: intersections, highway over/under passes, rivers and major pikes. Tackling a few of these major barriers (like I-24 on the East side) will have a much bigger impact on the number of people riding than adding miles of disconnected bike lanes.
3. Greatly expand Nashville B-Cycle.
We love Nashville B-Cycle! Bikeshare provides a fantastic opportunity for people to try out riding a bike in the city. Today there are 33 stations around the city and there were 46,268 checkouts in the first 6-months of 2016 alone. However, in order for bike share to be a real transportation option it needs to integrate it into our transportation system and expand it dramatically. For comparison, Washington, DC--a much smaller city in square feet-- has over 400 bike share stations and over 3,500 bicycles. Now that's what I call a transportation system.
4. Increase the number of Bicycle Friendly Businesses.
Today Nashville has 18 businesses with Bicycle Friendly Business designation. That's wonderful! But we need the business community to take an even more active role in promoting bicycling and walking. Employers have a huge impact on how their employees get to work. Rather than simply subsidizing car-driving (by providing free-parking), we want to see more businesses incentivizing and encouraging walking, biking and busing to work. For some ideas for where to get started check out our Travel Green program.
5. Focus on protected bike lanes and greenways that are accessible to all abilities.
Finally, if Nashville is going to get more people bicycling, we need to be building more bicycle facilities for riders of all ages and abilities. There will always be a few people who, either through bravery or need, will bomb down Dickerson Road or West End on a bicycle. But the vast majority of people fall into the "interested, but concerned" category. Our bike lanes should feel safe to new riders and veterans alike--and that means physical barriers between bikes and cars, and continuous corridors with protected intersections. We need a network of bikelanes and greenways that are safe and comfortable for all riders and all potential future riders.