A New Nashville Street That's Not Really Designed For Cars

Jun 26, 2015

It’s not just any old bike lane that Nashville has paved on 11th Avenue in the quickly growing Gulch neighborhood near downtown.

Instead of a little white stripe in the roadway, envision a sidewalk that’s twice as wide as normal — half of it for pedestrians and half for cyclists. The bike side is colored a shade of burnt orange.

The new sidewalk includes a bike lane that is separated from the road by a row of trees.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

Avid rider Matthew Nemer says the concrete strip could hardly be any better.

“This is probably the creme de la creme of bike lanes, because you have the cyclist off of the road, you know, on the correct side of parked cars. By that, I mean the passenger’s not going to open the door into the bike lane,” he said.

“I’ve been hit like that before. ... I’ve been 'doored.’ ”

So it’s safer, he says. And that’s a compliment coming from Nemer. He made waves this year when he wore a video camera while bicycling around Nashville, showing all the ways that bike lanes were mistreated by drivers.

So this stretch impresses him as a sign of things to come.

“The bike lane is definitely geared towards sort of a beginner cyclist. It’s the person who is afraid of the drivers in the street … and if you can remove that, then you get more people riding.”

Artist Tracy Montoya (right) and daughter Chloe create a chalk art image for an Open Streets event on Saturday in Nashville.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

Alongside the bike lane are other features of what’s known as a “complete street.” It’s lined with trees and gentle lighting, has highly visible crosswalks, and even sports a little pocket park with outdoor exercise equipment under the Church Street Bridge.

More: 11th Avenue Complete Street website

It’s also more expensive: about $2.3 million for a half-mile of work. It’s a price tag that could become more common. Mayor Karl Dean’s 2010 "complete streets" policy has been to create more of these pedestrian-friendly corridors. It requires that public streets be built with walkers, cyclists and mass transit in mind.

“People will look for the ability to walk around downtown or in the inner core of the city and the ability to get around on a bike,” Dean said. “The demand will be here for more complete streets.”

On Saturday, the city will close 11th Avenue to car traffic entirely from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The city and merchants will throw a street party instead, with free workouts, puppet shows, music, and even unicycles.

For more information about the event, visit www.openstreetsnashville.org.