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BFC Spotlight: Nashville

Earlier this month, we announced the latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities. Nashville, TN, is one of the 42 new and renewing communities this round, and the Bronze-level community has made a lot of strides since the last application period four years ago. We caught up with Liz Thompson, the executive director of Walk/Bike Nashville, to talk about the city’s improvements over the last few years.

What does this award mean to you and to Nashville? 

Nashville is incredibly proud to be recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community. In the past 10 years, we have seen enormous improvements in our city’s walking and biking infrastructure. We now have a Complete Streets policy ensuring that new roads take into consideration all road users; we have a full-time Bicycle Coordinator in Public Works and a full-time Active Mobility Planner in Planning; we have a thriving bike share program; we have been rapidly expanding our greenways and bikeways; and we have seen growing commitment throughout the city to ensure that all Nashvillians can choose healthy, active transportation. However, this award also provides us with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the work we still have to do as a community. The League’s Bicycle Friendly Community program gives Nashville some clear goals to strive towards improving the bicycling culture in our community. 

What was the city’s biggest accomplishment in the past year?

Nashville’s biggest accomplishments in the past year include, 1) the continued expansion of bikeways with 11 new miles of roadway bikeways completed, including 3.5 miles of Shared Routes, 5.3 miles of Buffered Bike Lanes, 2.2 miles of traditional Bike Lanes, as well as the installation of Nashville’s first Bike Box, 2) adding a full-time Active Mobility Planner to our Metro Planning Department who will be responsible for developing long range network plans for walking, biking, transit, and streets, 3) passing a bike parking ordinance for various urban zoning districts that requires any new buildings or large additions to existing buildings to include bike parking, and 4) launching Walk Bike University, a new program offered by Walk Bike Nashville that provides free, community-based bicycle education workshops for cyclists of all skill levels.

All photos of Tour de Nashville by Rex Perry

What’s on the to-do list for the next year?

As Nashville grows, there has never been a more important time for us to promote alternative transportation, foster our local businesses, and encourage healthy lifestyles.  Based on the great suggestions of the League of American Bicyclists, we have already begun to take steps towards adopting a Vision Zero policy to prioritize safety on our streets, develop a unified Safe Routes to School program to ensure bicycle-safety education is a part of primary and secondary education, advocate for an updated Bicycle and Sidewalk Plan, and work with our city to strategically expand, upgrade, and connect the bike network – especially along arterials and outside the urban core.  Additionally, this Saturday, June 27 in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, we will be launching Nashville’s first Open Streets event.  We hope to continue offering Open Streets events as an opportunity to raise awareness of bicycling issues in Nashville while engaging the community in fun, safe, and family-friendly bicycling opportunities.

Memphis also received an award this year — how does competition factor into your efforts? How do you view Nashville in comparison to its regional neighbors in terms of bike-friendliness?

Tennessee now has 4 Bicycle Friendly Communities: Chattanooga (Silver), Nashville (Bronze), Memphis (Bronze), and Knoxville (Bronze).  The Bicycle Friendly Community program provides us with a great opportunity to network, encourage, and learn from one another through our partners at Bike Walk Tennessee and at events such as the annual Tennessee Bike Summit.  However, it also provides an opportunity for some friendly competition!  With a new Mayor and 31 new council members coming to office at the end of this year, we hope to continue to work with the city to become a Silver, Gold, and then Platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community. Watch out Chattanooga!