Guest Post: Multimodal commuting in Nashville

Today’s guest blog post is from my friend Whitney, a dedicated member of the Nashville Bike Brunch gang. She had an adventure in multimodal commuting last Friday, when she used car + B-cycle + Music City Star to get to her office in (Hip) Donelson. Definitely something I’ve never done before! 

On Friday, I went on a bit of an adventure. My car had to go to the shop for the day, and it turned out that none of my coworkers who live in my neighborhood were available to take me to work. Trisha has mentioned before that Nashville has quite a car culture, but it does have a few public transportation options. Unfortunately for me, they’re all designed to shuttle people in and out of the downtown area, whereas I live outside the downtown core and work in the suburbs. But since the car dealership was close to downtown, I decided to use this opportunity to try out a couple of these options to get to work.

I’d always been curious about the Music City Star, a commuter train that runs in the mornings and the evenings and serves the “east corridor” of the Nashville metropolitan area. Its western terminus is downtown on the riverfront, and the train makes four stops before reaching its eastern terminus in Lebanon, about 30 miles outside of Nashville.

To get to the train station, I rented one of the new B-Cycles. There is a kiosk at Music Circle, one block from the dealership, and another at the train station. After an easy walk to Music Circle, I checked out a bike, which was a very simple process, scraped some frost off the seat, and hit the road.


I knew this would be the easy part, since I’ve ridden downtown on Demonbreun many times before and it’s downhill all the way. And the construction of Nashville’s new convention center on that road slows the traffic considerably. But I was surprised at the lack of traffic at this time of day. Even the dreaded section where Demonbreun passes over I-40 and I-65 (where off-ramps turn into cross streets and cross-streets turn into on-ramps) was very stress-free. And I was excited to see the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville on a weekday morning.


When I reached the train station, I simply popped the bike back into the kiosk and went inside to warm up before the train arrived 10 minutes later. It was amazing to see all of the commuters who use the train to get downtown from the suburbs. Dozens of people poured off the train at 8:15, the last downtown stop of the morning. Going east, however, I shared a carriage with only two other people.


I was the only person to get off the train at my stop—in fact, I don’t think it would have stopped there at all if I hadn’t told the conductor where I needed to go. A coworker kindly picked me up at the station and drove me to work.

I barely had time to turn around a take a photo before the train continued on its way

In the evening, I repeated the process—caught the train, rented a bike…and then, as I said, getting to the station was the easy part. The ride back to Music Circle is entirely uphill. And here in Nashville it’s completely dark by 5:30. Evening rush hour is evidently much busier than morning rush hour, there are no bike lanes on Demonbreun, the B-Cycles are heavy cruisers with only three speeds, and remember that the day was freezing. So…I didn’t quite make it to Music Circle. By the time I got just over halfway, I was huffing and puffing pretty violently. Looking ahead, I saw the hills I still had to climb; looking to my right, I saw a B-Cycle kiosk, and I decided to give in: I returned the bike and walked the rest of the way back, just over half a mile. I got to the dealership just as they were closing and gratefully hopped in my car.

It was a really gratifying and educational experience, and now is the time I’m supposed to draw some conclusions about this experience. I guess they are as follows:

1.) The Music City Star is amazing. It gave me a strong desire to move downtown and train/bike commute to work every day.

2.) Biking south out of downtown is difficult in the best of cases and really intimidating at night. A safer and/or easier option is needed, even if it’s just a bike lane on Demonbreun.

3.) Though the B-Cycle is a convenient option, they should consider offering seven-speeds rather than three-speeds in hilly Nashville.

3.) Working in the suburbs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed to a life of sitting in traffic.

5.) There are more people voluntarily using public transportation in Nashville than I ever thought!

{Thanks, Whitney!  I have yet to try the Music City Star—maybe a trip to the outlets in Lebanon is in order. Any multimodal commuters out there? Does your city make it easy for you?}

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13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Multimodal commuting in Nashville

  1. Lauren says:

    Awesome post! I was wondering how the Music City Star would fare for people who don’t work within walking distance to either of the stations… seems like it would defeat the purpose of riding the train. I didn’t even consider the B-Cycles. I do agree that they need more speeds; that hill on Demonbreun is KILLER.

    • Whitney says:

      Thanks Lauren! You’re also allowed to bring bikes on the train and keep them in the wheelchair section. I don’t have a car rack for my tiny car, or I would have tried that out.

    • Whitney says:

      Thanks Lauren! You’re also allowed to bring bikes on the train and keep them in the wheelchair section. I don’t have a car rack for my tiny car, or I would have tried that out.

  2. ladyfleur says:

    The Music City Star’s cars look a lot like what we have on the Caltrain on the San Francisco peninsula (two levels with only single seats on the upper level, right?) Every Caltrain train has two of its five cars gutted for bike racks and can carry a total of 48-80 to bikes. It’s perfect since much of the train runs through suburban areas and we don’t have bikeshare yet.

    On some trains the demand is so great that the bike car fills and passengers with bikes have to wait for the next train (not too bad on weekdays where there are 45 trains/day). I happen to take the least popular segment, so it’s not a problem for me. Here’s what the racks looks like when the car is empty: http://wp.me/1sDc4

    • Whitney says:

      Yes, that’s exactly the layout. I didn’t see anybody carry a bike off or on the train the time I rode, so there probably isn’t the demand right now for bike racks. That’s great that so many people do this train/bike commute in your area. I realize that my “adventure” is some people’s normal, daily commute. :)

  3. BikeBelles says:

    It looks like a great set up you have there, I’ve just visited Budapest and thought the cycling there was pretty great, but commuting in Nashville looks like a lot of fun, Cardiff where I live in the UK could do with s bit more of that!

  4. Sarah W. says:

    Go, Whitney! I take the bus downtown, then walk to work. One day (soon?) I’ll hop on a B cycle and ride!

  5. Ezra Rufino says:

    Awesome post, I always find it pretty eye opening when I hop on the public transportation to get to work. Usually, I ride my bike, but when circumstances make for it, I take the bus. It’s a whole different way of traveling and interacting that I actually end up enjoying being a part of and observing.

  6. Grace says:

    Great post! I like a good multi-modal adventure. Here in Chicago, both Metra & CTA have bike accommodations BUT…neither one allows bikes on trains during rush hours because the bike space is really just the handicap spots. LAME. On the plus side, once the bike share program gets rolled out this spring/summer there should be bike stations at most CTA stops and hopefully at the Metra stops in the city. Looking forward to that!

  7. Guest says:

    Thanks for this post! I live in the suburbs of NYC and do a multi-modal commute daily, using bike and train. My journey is made possible with the help of a lovely little folding bike as regular bikes aren’t permitted on trains during commuting hours but folding bikes are. There’s no car portion to my journey but if there was the bike would easily and quickly fold and sit in the back seat. I avoid the subway, but can take advantage of it if the mood take me, because i can fold and take the bike on there too. Once i’d figured out my usual commute I started to look at how I met get to other destinations and have come up with very efficient ways of combining public transport (bus, train and subway) with my bike and can get just about anywhere i want to go. My experience was similar to yours in that i’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is if you do a bit of research and planning. I’d wanted to bike commute for years and it took me far too long to figure out that I could do it this way and get a lovely 40 minute ride in every morning and evening, and only add 20 minutes to my daily commute time each way. So liberating and so life changing! Thanks again for the great post!

  8. madeline says:

    Thanks for this post! I live in the suburbs of NYC and do a multi-modal commute daily, using bike and train. My journey is made possible with the help of a lovely little folding bike as regular bikes aren’t permitted on trains during commuting hours but folding bikes are. There’s no car portion to my journey but if there was the bike would easily and quickly fold and sit in the back seat. I avoid the subway, but can take advantage of it if the mood take me, because i can fold and take the bike on there too. Once i’d figured out my usual commute I started to look at how I might get to other destinations and have come up with very efficient ways of combining public transport (bus, train and subway) with my bike and can get just about anywhere i want to go and these days use my car only once or twice a week for errands. My experience was similar to yours in that i’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is if you do a bit of research and planning. I’d wanted to bike commute for years and it took me far too long to figure out that I could do it this way and get a lovely 40 minute ride in every morning and evening, and only add 20 minutes to my daily commute time each way. So liberating and so life changing! Thanks again for the great post!

  9. SusanCyclist says:

    You can take a bike on the Star. I’ve done it. There are 2-3 people who do it on a regular basis. There is a spot at the front of a car for wheelchairs. It has a wheel clip to keep a chair stationary. Since there are no regular wheelchair commuters, they use the clip for bikes.

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