Why is Nashville’s bike share program being kept under wraps?

Last Saturday, I took a trip downtown for BarCamp.  It was a beautiful afternoon, and after a few hours in tech seminars lit only by the glow of Apple computers, I was ready for some sunshine. Wanting to prolong my trip home, I swung by Riverfront Park to check out our much-touted bike share program. I was already feeling guilty for waiting two whole months to visit.

So I left Le Peug tethered and walked the two blocks to the Visitor’s Center.

This is what I found.

How inviting.

A trip inside was no more encouraging. My friend and I stood in front of the reception desk for at least a minute before the young man sitting behind it noticed us (hard to hear an entry bell when you’re listening to your iPod). We proceeded to attempt to extract some info about the program from him. It was like pulling teeth from a hen. He eventually said that to borrow the bikes, we would have to be residents of Davidson County (check) and would have to fill out a form (he implied this had to be done online beforehand; I’m not sure that’s true).

Since I had my own bike, I did not press the issue. But it made me wonder if anyone at all had actually been able to use this program. It’s nice that you can rent bikes for free and cruise around downtown. It’s not so nice that on one of the most beautiful fall days of the year, the bikes were covered by tarps in the back of the building and the person in charge did nothing to encourage their use, even when confronted with people who were interested.

This bike share program has seemed dubious from the beginning — just two locations, Davidson County residents only — but the fact that it was free and the fact that the two stations were in good locations made me think the investment might be worth it, if only to give Nashville’s citizens a risk-free way to rediscover riding a bike on a lazy afternoon. Maybe the Shelby Bottoms location is more welcoming, but if the Riverfront station is an indicator, I doubt they’ll get enough use out of the bikes to justify next year’s planned expansion. The Music City Star all over again?

On a cheerier note, here’s a picture from downtown. I loved seeing the SUV behind the horse and buggy.

suv and buggy in Nashville

And here’s a pic of us  back home. You may have noticed I’m missing about 11 inches of hair. Locks of Love was very appreciative, and I adore my new bob.

me and le peug

A close up:

But back to the subject at hand: Any Nashvillians had a better experience with this program than mine? I’m willing to admit it was just one day and one man, albeit one perfect day for a bike ride…

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31 thoughts on “Why is Nashville’s bike share program being kept under wraps?

  1. that is so sad, and frustrating. let us know how it goes, it definitely would be a shame to not give the program a chance to succeed.

    nice hair!

  2. LC says:

    first – loooooove your new hair cut :D

    about the bike share, have you thought to contact your local council and ask what’s going on? (or is it a private initiative?)
    It’s such a shame to see the bikes covered and not used, after going the whole length of sourcing the bikes, set up the rental scheme and parking/renting infrastructure it’s seems a little mad they are not used?! If you find out let us know, I am intrigued ;)

    L x

  3. Dweendaddy says:

    When I moved here someone told me about this program. I was shocked that lil’ old Nashville had it’s own Velib! Then I found out it is just two locations, but I do hope people get to use them on these beautiful fall days we are having. I am less optimistic after reading your post!

  4. Simply Bike says:

    Ugh, that’s so disappointing about the bike share program! I don’t know if this is worth your time, but is there anyone in charge (and I don’t mean the sullen youth with the ipod) who you could contact just to give them the gist of your remarks…as someone interested in seeing this program succeed. Perhaps a higher up whose invested much time and money into this, might welcome your thoughts on how to ensure the bike share program actually entices people.

    On another note – your haircut looks faaaaabulous!! I love it! I’ve been growing my hair out for a while and think that eventually I will donate it too, now you’re making me eager to do it sooner already.


    • Trisha says:

      Yes, I plan on passing my comments along. It will be easier to frame them in a constructive manner now that a first draft is out on the blog. :)

  5. philippe says:

    I found weird to locate one of the 2 stations next to the visitor center and to restrict its use to the residents.
    Just sayin’.

    • Trisha says:

      That is a bit odd, Phillippe — only reasoning I can think of is because there aren’t many bikes available yet, but it would be nice if they were available for anyone’s use.

  6. Kinda sad. Makes me think there’s some political infighting going on. Or just the feather in the cap routine, “Hey, we have bike-sharing!” with no follow through. There’s a lot of that going on in the bike-infrasture world.

    I believe our Mpls. Nice Ride bike-sharing programs first Summer has been a success. I think the biggest thing it does is it sort of makes it official that biking in the city is an acceptable way to get around. While the bikes aren’t city owned, people associate them with the city. I’m sure that the program has helped fueled this years bike boom in the city.

    As for county residents only. That says a lot about the funding and how really small the goals are. While volunteering for Nice Ride, I met people from all over the world(Israel, Venezuela, Paris) that loved the bikes and how they got to see so much more of the city with them. Telling tourist “Not for you!” doesn’t jive with the Southern hospitality they have come to expect from your town. Maybe that’s why their hiding them?

    Go get em!

    Enjoying your new do!

  7. Kara says:

    Sometimes I am amazed when people act like put out when you want to enlist their services. They should be making it easy for you, not the other way around!

    The bob is perfection. It really suits you and is so chic.

  8. Scott says:

    Love the hair, Trisha!

    Maybe you should send this post to your local newspapers? Perhaps they could bring some attention to the issue.

  9. Laurence says:

    très jolie coupe de cheveux !

  10. Ginger says:

    Incredible hair!

    Lousy way to promote the bike share.

  11. sara says:

    Great hair.

    Yes, bummer about the implementation of this very potentially cool thing.

  12. dukiebiddle says:

    A college in my town patted itself on its back quite proudly when they introduced their bike share program for the student body last year. Of course, no student was allowed to check out a bike if they don’t arrive with a helmet in hand at the sign out desk. I have no doubt those bikes have quite a layer on dust on them by now wherever they’re stored. I wonder if they’ve even bothered to put air in the tires this semester.

  13. Tim says:

    I didn’t even know we had a bike share program in Middle TN. The share program here in Spring Hill is when my son lets one of his friends ride his bike. They sure aren’t riding mine! Now that I know, our next river front stroll will be a roll.

  14. welshcyclist says:

    Credit where it’s due, you look stunning!

  15. Blah! classic example of a great idea that isn’t sold to the actual people who are responsible for selling it. I bet that if there was only ONE worker at the visitors center that was committed, the program would work really well.

    Could you cc a letter with your comments and suggestions to more than just the visitors center manager – perhaps to the mayor or local member?

    btw Trisha, your new hair cut looks lovely.

  16. Carolyn I. says:

    I think a bike share program is a great idea, and this definitely not a good way to promote it.

  17. First of all, your haircut looks great!

    It seems like either the site you visited needs a new person at the desk or maybe the idea is to down play the bike share so the powers that be don’t have the numbers to justify expansion. You might want to consider contacting Nashville’s bike or multimodal transportation coordinator and discussing your concern with him.

  18. Kathy says:

    When I was last in Nashville I was shocked to discover that residents had to pay a $50 membership fee to use the “public” library! I am spoiled as our libraries in central NY are taxpayer supported. I was relocating there but my home sale fell through so I came home. It appears we may be making another go at the relocation idea in the next year. Nashville is a very pretty town and there are lovely environs in neighboring counties as well. My family lives there –my sister works downtown.

    • Trisha says:

      Weird — were you at a metro library? I’ve had my card for years now, but at the time I got it, the card was totally free.

      • Kathy says:

        Yes, I went to the branch on Charlotte Pike by a park. (Westside). My brother lives on Croley. I thought it odd because I did have my work ID — I was working at Centennial Hospital.

        When I was at my sister’s (in Ashland City) they charge $30 for a card and would only let me borrow one book. Who borrows just one book! My current local library has a 50 book limit.

        I’ll have to ask my sister about whether she had to pay the $50 fee as I know she uses the downtown Main Branch.

        Anyhow, I hope they extend and expand the bikeshare.
        My brother’s working (or may have finished) the Extreme Makeover House down there.

  19. Trisha, nice hair cut! Sorry about the disappointment in
    Nashville’s bike share program. Chattanooga is getting its own bike share program in a few months. It will be interesting to sere how that works out.

  20. Marne Duke says:

    Trisha, I work for the Metro Public Health Dept. in Nashville and wanted to give you some info about the bike share program in Nashville. The current system is a pilot project of the Mayor’s Office of Healthy Living. We will be partnering with the Mayor’s office to expand the program that will combine paid kiosks (similar to cities such as Denver or DC) and free cruisers available at parks and community centers.
    Here is a link to a story in the Tennessean last month: http://www.tennessean.com/section/VIDEONETWORK#/B+Cycle+demonstration+in+Nashville/620223048001

    I have followed your blog for some time and are glad you are back biking in town. If you see a red-head on an orange townie, say hi! I’ll keep you updated on bike share news, we should have a web site up by January 1.

    • Trisha says:

      Thanks, Marne. I will keep an eye out for you! I realize this is just the beginning of something bigger, but not sure how interest is expected to build if the bikes are not made more visible and the people working at the stations aren’t interested in providing information about the program. It’s too bad; I do think it is a nice idea.

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