Who Owns Our Greenways?
The bike share program BCycle is asking the Parks Board to change its anti-e-bike rules to allow class 1 e-bikes on greenways. (See Part 1 below). This should include bikeshare from BCycle, dockless bikes from Spin, Bird and Lime and personally owned vehicles.
A group of advocates including Walk Bike Nashville, council members, scooter companies and yours truly are attempting to convince the Parks Board to change their rule. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that state law preempts their rule and clearly allows e-bikes on greenways.
WBN has a particularly good explanation here.
BCycle made their pitch to the Board and they shunted it off to a group called the Greenways and Open Space Commission. Their next meeting is August 11 and members are here. We’re not exactly sure what they do and they’re probably not either. Feel free to contact them if you support our efforts. The WBN blog post contains the talking points. I would add these.
Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on greenways by state law (TCA 55-8-306) unless Metro Council passes an ordinance or resolution banning or regulating them.
Metro Council has never passed such an ordinance or resolution and it is unlikely that a ban would pass.
State law makes it clear that Class 1 e-bikes are not motorized vehicles.
Under state law, Class 1 e-bikes are currently allowed on greenways even though the Parks Department has a policy to the contrary.
Nashville needs a formal policy to conform with state law and allow Class 1 e-bikes on the greenways.
I’m not sure what will happen next but since e-bikes are already using the greenways I think I’ve got a good idea.
The Metro Parks department rules include a ban on “motorized vehicles” on local greenways. They interpret this to include electric bikes that are growing cycling and becoming more popular worldwide. E-bikes are especially suited to senior citizens or people with physical challenges, commuters, and families with children. They make navigating a hilly and hot city like Nashville much more doable.
A state law passed in 2016 that defines e-bikes and mandates where they can be used including streets, bike lanes, paths, and trails. The law gives local governments authority to regulate e-bikes on greenways but requires specific language in the ordinance and Metro has no such law. E-bikes are specifically excluded from the definition of motorized vehicles in another state law.
The Bcycle bike share program was extremely popular but disappeared from Nashville at the beginning of the pandemic. The operation, which is owned by Trek Bicycles, is about to reappear with 300 e-bikes for rent. The ubiquitous e-scooters found on Nashville’s streets and sidewalks for the last few years will be operated by Spin, Bird and Lime and they will rent over 240 e-bikes in the next few months. In other word, e-bikes are coming to town.
I bought an e-bike in 2016 after doing some research when the law was introduced. I have ridden on the greenways since in a very legal fashion. The greenway speed limit is 15 MPH and I adhere to that except maybe on a few downhill runs. I am often passed by riders on acoustic bikes who must be training for the Tour de France. The Parks Department does not attempt to ban them. I see more and more e-bikes on greenways these days often ridden by seniors like myself.
I have never been stopped or ticketed by Metro Parks despite their assertion I am violating their rule. I contend that they have no rule since state law clearly preempts any local authority. The Parks Administration will be challenged in the next few months by advocates that want to grow cycling by allowing e-bikes from Bcycle, Spin, Bird, Lime, and yours truly on greenways.
Stay tuned for the fireworks. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org