Last Wednesday, May 15th, 25 riders came together in downtown Nashville to convene for the annual Ride of Silence. This has been my third year co-leading the ride, and I had prepared some remarks to deliver before the ride departed. I didn’t feel like there was enough time before we rode to speak, and so I post these here instead. If you have any feedback I would greatly welcome it – leave a comment below or contact me directly.
Bicycle riders know the joy that comes from exploring a city. We also know the tinge of fear that comes from riding in a culture that values car driving over human-powered transportation. The law may say that we have a right to the road, but when there is very little meaningful enforcement, education, or legal system that truly backs this up it results in injuries and sometimes even death. Davidson County in general – and Nashville in particular – are fortunate in that we have only had one documented bicycle rider fatality since 2016. (according to TN Dept of Safety & Homeland Security). It’s only a matter of time before that number sees an uptick, especially since bicycle crashes resulting in injuries aren’t seeing a consistent, noticable downward trend.
Make your voice known to your elected officials, your councilpersons, your mayor, your neighborhood associations, your advocacy groups, the businesses you frequent, your governmental organizations – departments like Public Works and Greenways and Parks & Recreation and the District Attorney’s office – make your voice known and heard about bicycle infrastructure issues, about consistent enforcement and application of the law, and about how human-powered transportation in Nashville should receive as much if not more priority than motor vehicle transportation. You can shout it out to social media channels but make sure to supplement that with a phone call, an email, a written letter. Walking and biking issues make for great sound bites during a campaign, but are often the first things dropped off the agenda once the election is over.
Make sure all your friends and family know that if you are hit and killed by a car driver while riding a bicycle that you want the driver criminally prosecuted. Make sure all your friends and family know that the three feet and due care laws exist in Tennessee. Make sure your friends and family don’t text when they drive. And when someone says that you, as a bicycle rider, don’t deserve to be in the road, invite them to go for a ride with you sometime and see how freeing – and yet how frustrating – it can be.