Previous Writings on the Greenways
The Parks Board met on March 1, 2022 and confirmed the decision of the Greenways Commission. They can't ban e-bikes anyway (it would take Metro Council action) and some of them seemed to understand that fact. The whole saga from summer of 2021 to now is bizarre. The parks department bureaurcracy lacks transperency and has some strange hatred of e-bikes and BCycle. They have now booted BCycle out of the parks under some bogus nonsense about contracts and liability. The Parks Board is created in the Metro Charter and has total control over parks. The Mayor's office said even he couldn't do anything about it which is BS.
The Greenways Commission met last week, February 9, 2022. (see below). After a somewhat confused discussion they decided to recommend no additional regulation of e-bikes on greenways. That’s a victory for the good guys. Only one commission member really pushed back with the same old, same old, they’re heavy, faster, etc. The vice-chairman kept trying to push them along to a decision. There was a possibility that someone might try to convince them to ban class 2 bikes but it never materialized.
They also decided to recommend another study (they haven’t finished the first one) that will look at “infrastructure”. There’s nothing wrong with that but the devil is in the details. We’ll see how that turns out. One of the parks staff members suggested they have some money from the greenways capital fund! So we’ll use money that could go to greenways in order to study greenways?
This nonsense started when BCycle asked the Parks Board for permission to operate in the parks with class 1 e-bikes. The commission was about to adjourn without considering the question! Our good friend Council Member Emily Benedict, who is not even on the commission, interjected and reminded them of their task. The vice-chair, Charles Sueing, basically waved it off and said if there is a contract for it to go ahead?
Here's the video if you’ve a spare hour or so.
I have not been impressed with the Greenways Commission or the parks department staff. The lack of transparency is rather appalling. I think these issues will be taken up at the next Parks Board meeting on March 1. Stay tuned for more information. The Parks Board members are listed here if you want to contact them with your point of view.
Here’s the draft report which is in desperate need of an editor.
What Nashvillians Think About E-Bikers, Cyclists and Dogs on the Greenways
The Parks Department just completed a survey about e-bike riders on Greenways. The back story is interesting but not necessary for this review. They will release a report soon and we’ll have more to say. We had to submit a public records request to get the data. It all started when BCycle, the bike share that now rents e-bikes, asked to operate in parks and on greenways.
They included a question about “do you sometimes feel unsafe” and why. It did not ask if your experience on greenways is positive or negative. It must be positive because greenways are pretty crowded on nice sunny weekend days. E-bikes are allowed on greenways but that fact was not included in the survey.
Most Like Us But Some Don’t
Fifty-four percent of the more than 2,600 respondents approved of Class 1 (pedal assist) e-bikes but only forty-one percent approved of class 2 (throttle e-bikes). Many class 2 bikes also have pedal assist and are clearly misunderstood.
People from age 18 to 65 approved of class 1 e-bikes but those over 65 disapproved. Walkers and runners approved at about 54% with cyclists at 70%. What’s wrong with the other 30%? Men approved at a 65% rate compared to 51% for women.
Approval rates were higher in East Nashville, Inglewood, Germantown, Belmont, (and others) with disapproval coming from Belle Meade, West Meade and Bellevue. Is there a trend?
The survey included a question if you ever felt unsafe on the greenway and why. A large minority 44%, never feel unsafe. The primary reasons (respondents could make multiple choices) for feeling unsafe included cyclists (41%), and dogs (on and off leash) 46%. I would point out that the choice is “cyclists” and not just e-bike riders.
Those who felt safe approved of e-bikes at a 75% rate and those who fear cyclists exhibited an approval rate of 29%. That is not unexpected but is a significant difference.
Those who self-reported as walkers and runners approved of class 1 e-bikes at about 54%. The dog averse group approved of e-bikes at about the same rate.
People more familiar with e-bikes, who know someone, have ridden or own one, approve at higher rates. Ninety-five percent of e-bike owners approved, and I would like to discuss this with the five percent.
Note: These numbers are preliminary so don’t take it to the bank. We have had several people analyzing data and the totals may change a little because of spoiled entries, some were from out of county, and we differ about how to count “I don’t know”.
We have found over 50 cities with exactly the same law as Nashville where class 1 and 2 e-bikes are allowed on greenways and trails.
Metro Parks conducted a survey (it ended on Nov 30, 2021) about the use of e-bikes on Nashville Greenways. E-bikes limited to 20 MPH are allowed on greenways by Tennessee law since 2016.
The survey is part of a study that came about because of backlash against the return of BCycle utilizing e-bikes. Some elements of the community are opposed to e-bikes on greenways even though they are an important part of the transportation system.
If Nashville is to have a truly multi-modal transportation system then greenways must be open to all bicycle riders. The Cooper administration requested rental e-bikes be provided by Bird, Spin and Lime, the companies that currently rent scooters.
We need you and everyone you know to respond to the survey with your support of e-bikes on greenways. Many people do not understand that e-bikes are not mopeds or motorcycles. (If that includes you feel free to contact me for more information).
E-bikes are expanding bicycling to groups that would not otherwise ride bikes, senior citizens, commuters, the physically challenged and families with children. I won’t bore you with all the talking points in favor of e-bikes but please fill out the survey and support bicycling in Nashville.
The saga continues. The Cooper Administration has taken the lead on the issue of e-bike use of greenway. They organized a sit down with all the “stake holders” including parks, greenways people, BCycle, Walk Bike Nashville, Metro Legal, Downtown Partnership, etc. Metro Legal explained to parks people that class 1 and 2 e-bikes are legal on greenways under current law and have been 2016. This is the first time they had to acknowledge the reality that many of us knew the last five years.
The decision was made to do some kind of “study” to look at peer cities. This should only take a few days with google. They can look at the outcome of the studies done in Austin and Seattle and save a lot of time and money. Initial research indicates that almost all cities allow e-bikes. I’ve looked at over 30 cities and all but one allow e-bikes on trails. Nashville, for once, is in the mainstream of bicycling even though our bike infrastructure is severely lacking (I’m being nice).
The narrow-minded greenways people are still opposed to e-bikes but agreed to the study. The BCycle people, who are entirely too nice, agree to hold off again. The e-bikes from Bird, Spin and Lime will also have to wait, probably until next year. The three companies are now contractors with Metro government a totally different arrangement than in the past when scooters where everywhere.
A resolution was introduced at council by mutual agreement to allow the study. It was totally unnecessary, but I guess it made someone feel better. Although everyone agreed to back off from lobbying the anti-bike group had several councilmembers change the resolution with amendments. It didn’t really matter except the verbiage is a little more anti-bicycle.
The greenways fanatics now know that they will have to bring legislation to ban old people riding e-bikes from “their” greenways. We will have to watch and make sure they don’t try to sneak something through Metro Council. We will have to make sure the study isn’t slanted toward the anti-bike group.
Stay tuned for updates.
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