Monday, May 24, 2010

What if the LAB Threw a Bike-to-Work Day and Nobody Came?

You may recall that, a couple of weeks ago I told you about my dream, where cyclists would take over the roads and turn the world green. This past Friday was Bike-to-Work Day, and that was to be the day.

I volunteered to lead a group into downtown Nashville from Franklin -- a distance of just under 20 miles. I arranged for other groups to start from locations near our route, and join us as we swept up Hwy 31 to the capitol building. This was to be a well-behaved, early morning Critical Mass-esque troupe, trying to show the world that you can get to work on a bicycle, rather than choking the streets with a huge SUV.

Getting up about 4 am, I biked from my house down to Mac's Harpeth Bicycles to meet the 6 am group. Mac showed up with donuts and coffee, ready to fuel a pack of intrepid riders.

I was a little surprised when nobody showed up in Franklin, but I could understand. It had rained most of Thursday, and the forecast for Friday was really dicey (even though it turned out to be wrong, since Friday remained mostly dry). Also, like I said above it's a long way into downtown from Franklin, and these folks would have to then bike back home after work.

Nonetheless, I really appreciated Mac showing up with coffee and donuts, and apologized profusely when nobody else showed up to consume them. Mac is a really, really, really good guy.

At 6:10 I started north, expecting/hoping that somebody would join me on the way. The schedule had a group departing from Harpeth Bicycles in Cool Springs at 6:10, so that the groups would combine about 6:20 where Mallory Station Road hits Franklin Pike. I got there at almost exactly 6:20, and waited for the other riders.

At 6:25, I had to give up on the Cool Springs group. I continued north.

Again, I wasn't too surprised. It's still a long bike ride in to downtown from Cool Springs -- easily 15-20 miles. And there was that big chance of rain, and trying to figure out how to get home. Still, I kept half-expecting other riders to join me as I went north, and made the rendezvous point at Concord Road right on time.

Yeah, still nobody. So I waited five minutes for any late-comers. Nothing.

As I rode through Brentwood and the edge of Maryland Farms, I felt sure that somebody would join me. At this point, it's just over 10 miles into the city. But, as I thought about it, I decided that there were probably a lot of folks who might be saving their legs, since the Tour de Cure century was Saturday.

I didn't go to Tour de Cure, by the way, since I had a 600K in Kentucky. I guess that I didn't really need to save my legs for a little 380-mile ride, so I might as well volunteer to lead a bunch of other cyclists in to downtown Nashville on the day before. Did I mention, though, that I don't work in downtown Nashville, and that after the ride I would have to bike 10 miles back south to my office? Or that I had biked all the way over from my house because it was Bike-to-Work Day, and driving a car to a ride just seemed kind of wrong?

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. After all, it was my choice to volunteer. I wanted to be a leader.

See how many riders I was leading at about 7 am as I went through the intersection of Franklin Pike and Battery Lane/Harding Place?

I had one more "collection point" for riders, when I passed under Woodmont Blvd and Thompson Lane. There's a bike lane on Thompson Lane, although it doesn't go all the way to Franklin Pike. I guess that's why, at 7:15 am, this was all of the bicycles in my group of riders.

Dejected, I continued on into town. The cars were surprisingly well-behaved on these roads, perhaps because it was still fairly early, or maybe because they are more used to cyclists in the city. I got to the capitol just before 7:30 without any trouble.

There was a rally at a park nearby, but I just didn't have the heart to go. I heard later that Mayor Karl Dean came out to speak to the couple dozen cyclists that had commuted in to work that day. I'm sure that he was very impressed, and that this is the kind of turnout that is bound to get his administration working diligently to build more bike lanes and protect cyclist rights.

Sorry if I sound Critical about our lack of Mass.


  1. Evidently your ride start didn't sync with other cyclo-muters.....same experience I had in Memphis on BTW day.

  2. Yeah, I was singing to myself. "Mr. Lonely" "I Walk Alone" (which I changed to I Bike Alone). And so forth. Maybe it was a good thing that nobody else was with me, since I'm a terrible singer.

  3. Man, that really stinks :( We actually had a pretty good BTWD turnout here in Louisville, which I found a little surprising since very few riders showed up for most of the 'practice rides' for new commuters. I'm still trying to figure out why it works in one municipal area with semi-decent bike newbie infrastructure, but not necessarily in another. The best explanation I can come up with is that humans are weird.

  4. Well, I rode, but I was going from Nashville to Smyrna, on that great cycling road known as Murfreesboro Pk. I did pass one other rider headed north.

  5. Hey, thanks for your effort. I used to work for the department of transportation in DC, and I know how far we can go and how long it will take. I plan to commute between brentwood/ravenwood high school and downtown/capital soon. I am new to the area. any safe route suggestion? thanks a lot. Seth

  6. Seth:

    Welcome to the area. From out by Ravenwood, you can take Wilson Pike into Brentwood, then Church to Franklin Pike. It's a pretty straight shot up from there, and basically the way I went in this blog. Wilson Pike is not great between Concord and Church, so if you don't mind some extra miles you could go thru Raintree to Green Hills Blvd, thru Chenoweth, and work your way over to Shenendoah. This is how I commute to work most days.