Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Use It or Lose It

A couple of weeks ago, Williamson County finally finished putting in the new bike lane up Hillsboro Road. Thanks to a decently warm afternoon and a temporary lull at work, I was able to finally test out this bad boy with a quick ride into downtown Nashville.

Since it was a new bike lane, it still had a lot of debris in it ... although, to be honest, later in my ride I found myself on older bike lanes with a lot of debris in them. This lane was so new that they were still putting up the Bike Lane signs.

The lane comes in goes in spots, but overall is fairly good. The nice thing is that it takes you all of the way up to Old Hickory Road, which is kind of the border between Williamson and Davidson counties in this area.

Now, Old Hickory Road itself doesn't mean much to a cyclist. Frankly, you'd have to be insane or desperate to ride your bike on it for long. I know this well, since I used to commute to work on a short piece of it, and that was hair-raising riding.

But, once you cross Old Hickory Road on Hillsboro Road, you've still got a good shoulder. There are then signs admonishing drivers to share with you.

Better yet, however, you then get a bike lane. It kind of comes and goes in spots, just like it's Williamson County brother, but it's better than nothing.

You can take this bike lane (more or less) up to Harding Road.

Past this, you just get a pretty good shoulder. There's also Green Hills Mall, so everyone is driving very slowly anyway. If you're a gutsy cyclist, it's bearable.

I didn't just want bearable, however, so I headed east a couple of blocks and went north through the Lipscomb University campus and on up towards Belmont.

Here, you mostly just have to watch out for cars parallel parking to your right. And, of course, people in those cars opening their doors in your face.

From there, it's easy to go down Music Row, which also has a bike lane. The big recording company offices there were telling me to go have a drink.

At the top of Music Row, I headed east in to town. I either had a bike lane or sharrows thru here ... or, again, traffic was so slow that they didn't care that I was on a bicycle.

I eventually ended up at the new Asurion downtown offices, where I am supposed to get my own shiny new cubicle in December. It's a very nice office, and really cool inside.

If I lived in East Nashville, I would have been able to take the pedestrian bridge to the office. This would have almost been too easy.

Heading back, I went by Bridgestone Arena. They're doing all kinds of construction there, so that even a bicycle going uphill has to hit the brakes.

I decided to take a different way back, so I got on 21st Avenue near Vanderbilt University. This made the third college campus that I had biked thru on this route.

Again, the lights on 21st Avenue are perfect for a cyclist, even if there is no bike lane. Basically, they are timed to make everyone stop. A lot. So, you just peddle along, and the cars notice that the light is already turning red and that they wouldn't have made it anyway, and they let loose a collective, "Meh."

Somewhere in there, 21st Avenue becomes Hillsboro Avenue, and I was again stop-and-going my way past Green Hills Mall. There's one little nasty stretch between the mall and Harding Road, and then you're back in the bike lane. As I said, this bike lane would be great if not for the spots where it just peters out ... probably because the county was too cheap to pay to widen some narrow bridges.

Back into Williamson County again, I passed my old friends on the sign crew.

Then, I stayed in the lane all the way to its end at Mack Hatcher, near Franklin High School. The shoulder is not too bad between there and downtown Franklin, so I went in to see the Christmas decorations there.

Is riding into town in the bike lane like this as much fun as a long ride out into quiet countryside? Not at all. But, it needed to be done. Cars needed to start seeing bicycles in that lane so that they would appreciate that it is there for some purpose other than costing them the shoulder. The more bikes there are in the bike lane, the more people expect us and appreciate that their hard-earned tax dollars actually went for something.

It may not be for everybody, because cars will whiz past you at a pretty good clip. But, if you're a cyclist in the Nashville area that likes to use the bike to actually go somewhere, I urge you to get out there and ride the lanes.

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