Thank You, Mary Harris

Late in January, Bike Fun made a presentation at the Madison/Rivergate FiftyForward as part of their Post-Holiday Wellness Fair. The topic was bike riding at any age, with a smattering of bike and traffic law.

I cued up a slide on Tennessee Bike Law and explained that in many cases, the violation of these laws results in a warning or – occasionally – a ticket, but very rarely a prosecution. There’s plenty of reasons for this, but my question to the audience was along the lines of “Why have these laws in place if they are not used as an enforcement strategy?”

A hand in the back of the room shot up.

“Yes?” I pointed to the woman with the outstretched hand.

“What are we doing about it?” she asked.

“Well – ” I started.

“I mean, people are getting hurt and dying out there. What are we doing about it?

The question stung. I answered that she could contact her elected officials – local, state, and federal – to ask the same question of them. They are really the ones who have sway over it, I replied.

Upon further reflection, it’s not only writing or calling representatives that would help. What would help is if vehicle drivers would be aware of their massive responsibility to look out for the most vulnerable of road users – pedestrians and bicycle riders. Take a few hours outside of a car and walk in your neighborhood – bike ride where you work – walk on the side of one of the sidewalk-less pikes in Nashville. That will give you a perspective you’ll only come by through lived experience.

So, Mary Harris, what can we do?

  • Advocate for better sidewalk and bicycling infrastructure – this entails calling, writing, showing up to meetings, being vocal, getting neighborhood groups on board with support
  • Tennessee leaves up to $18 million for road repairs on the federal table, as it were, by continuing to have an open container law which permits passengers in cars to have an open alcoholic container. Lobby your state legislators to close the loophole on this
  • Join an advocacy group like Walk Bike Nashville and learn about what Nashville is doing – or not doing – to support those who walk or bike here
  • Read and participate in the walking-and-biking-in-nashville Google group, an independent assortment of runners, bike riders, walkers, and human-powered transportation advocates
  • Above all, make it a priority to look out for walkers and bike riders – and make sure your friends, family, co-workers, and elected representatives know that you support human-powered transportation by calling them out when they fail to do so.

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