It’s Not the Size of Your Lane, It’s How You Use It

If you’re reading this, chances are you are already an ally in the struggle to achieve transportation equity for bike riders and pedestrians. This message really isn’t for you, but I do want you to share it with those who may feel differently.

In Nashville, Tennessee, efforts have been made by city planners, Public Works, bike and pedestrian advocacy groups, and individual advocates to address the patchwork of connected bike and pedestrian infrastructure with projects including road paving, additional sidewalks, and greenway trails. There is currently a proposal to change 8th Avenue from the traffic circle at Lafayette/Korean Vets all the way down through Berry Hill into three lanes, down from four. One directional north/south travel lane and a turn lane – and bike lanes.

O lord, the bike lanes.

Notwithstanding the fact that those bike lanes will probably wind up being nearly all gutter and probably unbarriered (and will create new and different issues with riding a bike on 8th Avenue) it’s the car drivers who are up in arms about the reduction of lanes. Cries of, “Gridlock!” are emanating from online petitions, public meetings, and letters to the editor.

But – what if this road diet helped reduce car driver crashes and fatalities as well? Can we flip the script to show the impact it could have on the well-being of those who choose to drive that corridor as well?

I hear this all the time: “You’re crazy to ride a bike [in Nashville|on that street|with cars]. Drivers are crazy.” I will then ask them if they drive a car in Nashville; if the answer is yes, my follow up question is, “Well, are you crazy?” It’s usually met with a stammer and a “No, but…”

It’s all of us. It’s all Nashvillians who have to work with shared space (not just on the greenway!) and work together to get us around this city.

Taking away a lane on a road that has seen ~1100 car crashes in the past 5 years isn’t short-sighted, it’s smart. It’s working to protect all of us and to provide space and safety for everyone to get around.

Plus, just think about the possibilities after the pavement has been relaid with adding in sidewalks – yes, this first phase of the project only addresses the road paving, not the sidewalk infrastructure – you can live in a condo up the street and be able to safely cross 8th Avenue to get to the Kroger, to the pub, to the restaurant – and never have to use your car to do so. Or you can be at work and make a quick errand on foot or by bike. Save money on gas, insurance, collision repair… it’s a win-win all around.

Consider the businesses who are against this proposal, and look around at their capacity for car parking. They should know that bikes mean business, that pedestrians spend money too, and that reducing lanes of vehicle travel will lead to a greater economic boost for us all.

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