Feb 3, 2022 - News

E-bike debate continues

Animated illustration of an ebike with electricity lines emitting from the center.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nashville's long-simmering debate over regulating e-bikes is coming to a head as policymakers respond to a public survey that drew responses from almost 2,700 people.

  • E-bikes are powered by batteries that help riders pedal. Their popularity has soared recently, with sales last year increasing by 240% and spurring questions about how and where they should be used.

Why it matters: The question of whether to allow e-bikes on the city's greenway system, where traditional bicycles are already allowed, hangs in the balance.

  • The Greenways Commission will consider the survey, plus a corresponding study commissioned through legislation from Councilmember Jeff Syracuse, when it resumes its e-bike discussion on Feb. 9.

Driving the news: According to the survey, 54% of respondents approve allowing pedal-assisted e-bikes on trails.

  • However, 56% said they have felt unsafe on greenways due to others. The top reason was cyclists.
  • The study also examined how other cities have regulated e-bikes, including Chattanooga and Memphis, and found the vast majority allow them on greenways.

Between the lines: The leading company in the bike-sharing space is BCycle, which has had a presence in Nashville for about 10 years. The company already maintains 34 e-bike docking stations across the city, including 11 on park property.

State of play: When the question of restricting e-bikes on greenways arose, the company temporarily suspended those 11 docking stations.

  • BCycle Nashville general manager Elese Daniel tells Axios she's hopeful about the future of e-bikes on greenways.
  • "All of this is about making sure that we give as many people as possible access to the greenways," Daniel says. "I want to encourage inclusivity on the greenways and make sure everyone who is walking, or biking, or pushing a stroller on the greenways, is able to do it safely and fairly."

What he's saying: Syracuse tells Axios he doesn't think e-bikes should be banned and that a pilot project on the greenway system seems likely.

  • "For me, it is a question of infrastructure and if a private company wants to use park property, what should that relationship look like so it's fair for both sides?" Syracuse says.

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