My state representative, Gary Moore, is usually both a very reasonable guy, and responsive to the needs of his constituents. Not only is he good enough that he hasn’t had a Republican opponent in several election cycles, he’s good enough that I, as a Green, don’t feel like taking advantage of that and running against him—why risk alienating somebody you can work with?
Because he’s so reasonable, I was surprised to learn that he introduced the bill to ban bicycles from River Road, a stunningly scenic byway that winds along the south shore of the Cumberland River west of Nashville. Ban bikes? You got to be kidding!
But as I studied the issue, I started to understand what was going on. “Winds” is definitely the operative word for River Road, which traverses hills, blind curves, and occasional long straightaways on its way from Charlotte Pike to Ashland City. In many ways, it’s a beautiful, peaceful place to ride a bicycle; but, because River Road is an old road, there are no shoulders. Pedestrians, equestrians, trucks, cars, school buses, farm equipment, and bicyclists all have to share the same narrow right-of-way. And that is where the problem begins. River Road gets a lot of recreational bicycle traffic, and that’s unnerving the residents, who are concerned that they might hurt somebody and annoyed that they have to slow down and watch out for a bunch of people who don’t live in or even relate very much to their neighborhood but who feel entitled to use it for recreation—and some possibly some feel a little bugged about these folks who have the time to be out there sporting on their bikes while the residents have to dash around in their cars taking care of business. Kind of an ant-and-grasshopper thing, y’know?
So, they asked Rep. Moore if he would draft a bill that would ban bicyclists from River Road, and, being responsive to his constituents, he did, and then the fun began. Bicycling organizations all over the state raised a fuss, concerned about the precedent it would set. Mayor Dean, himself an occasional cyclist, informed the legislature that the City of Nashville is opposed to the bill—but he has made funding for sidewalks and bicycle lanes a priority in the city’s budget. Hopefully, River Road will be near the top of his list.
Cyclists thought they had scored a victory when Rep. Moore temporarily withdrew the bill from a committee hearing date, but that, it turns out, is because the residents of River Road wanted additional time to buttress their case. The bill will be back .Banning bicycles as the automobile heads off into the sunset is pretty counterintuitive—but even if this bill passes, when the gas runs out, it will be ignored.
Meanwhile, there’s something very important that hasn’t happened. There has apparently been no communication between cycling groups and the neighborhood, which would seem to me to be the first step to take. River Road Neighborhood Association representative Rena Clark says she would welcome such talks, but has been unable to set anything up. As of this writing, I have been unable to connect with Walk Bike Nashville, one of the main bicycle advocacy groups involved in opposition to the ban, to get their side of the story, but it seems like there should be an attempt to work this out at a lower level before setting a solution into the stone of state law. Can we talk?
music: Queen, “Bicycle”