Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recreation vs Travel

The weather here in Tennessee was magnificent this past weekend, with highs near 80 and very little humidity. It was also the RandoDaughter's birthday on Saturday, so I did not ride much.

The RandoDaughter actually apologized at one point, but I told her that I did not at all mind giving up a weekend of nice weather for her birthday. Having fun with her, and making sure that she had a special time, was much more important than any ride could ever be. Her apologizing like that, though, just shows what a sweet, thoughtful kid ... er, person (she is 18 now, after all) she is.

RandoGirl and I went out for a short ride very early Saturday morning, however, going down to Bethesda to climb Pulltight Hill a couple of times. This is a great little route, just over 50 miles, with four fun climbs -- a nice mix of flat tempo and steady climbing. The cool, clear air made for a great view from the top of Pulltight. You could almost see Spring Hill.

We came back on Wilson Pike, which the state recently re-paved with a nice wide shoulder. Of course, they immediately ruined it by putting in some kind of rumble trench just to the right of the white line. This is a divot, about an inch deep and six inches wide. I'm not sure what it's supposed to do for cars, but it makes the shoulder only marginally tenable for bikes.

So, we get to the top of the hill, past the part with the rumble divot, and the shoulder opens up very wide right where you see the "Welcome to Brentwood" sign. I called over my shoulder to RandoGirl: "Welcome to Brentwood. A bicycle-friendly community."

And that got me to thinking: Really?

Over the course of the past few years, Brentwood has put in a lot of multi-use trails. RandoGirl and I actually got on the new one that runs along Split Log Road. It was nicely paved, separated from the road, and certainly a nice way to travel on a bike.

And that path actually goes somewhere. You can get to at least four schools, a library, a YMCA, a recreation center, and three parks on that paths, or paths to which it connects. Using those paths, you can ride a bike to a number of fun places.

But not to any stores, nor office buildings. There are no paths -- nor bike lanes -- into downtown Brentwood, Cool Springs, or Maryland Farms. These paths do not connect up to any bike lanes that you can take into downtown Nashville, either.

The point is that these paths are really just for play. They are for people to walk or run on, or ride cruiser bikes when the weather is really nice. In that regard, I think that they are great.

But they do not make Brentwood more bike-friendly. Instead, a bicycle on these paths is just an afterthought. I can hear realtors pointing them out to folks moving here from Tucson, saying "You can walk or run or skate ... even ride a bike on them."

In this way, Brentwood reflects the mindset of America regarding the bike. In Europe, a bicycle is still considered by most people a valid form of transportation, but here in America it is a child's toy, and not to be taken seriously.

America is a country of adults that outgrew their bicycles years ago. And that is a shame.


  1. Sad, but true. We are also a country where everything must be fast and immediate, if not sooner, and patience is not seen as much of a virtue. Another reason why bikes have been left behind.

  2. Retail doesn't plan for sheltered or secure storage of bikes. Since I had a bike stolen in grad school (locked to a bike rack, in view of a video camera), I care too much about my cycles to leave them (even locked) while shopping in my community. Maybe I need a REAL UGLY bike for this....just no room in my garage :(