NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Trips around Music City may be getting more, easier options. E-bike companies Bird, Spin, and Lime are partnering with NDOT for the city's first dockless e-bike program.
The program launched on Tuesday. It seeks to promote responsible use of e-bikes as a transportation option in Nashville.
The dockless system allows riders to park their bikes within a defined district. In this case, the pilot program includes areas of North, West, and South Nashville around downtown. Companies will utilize geofencing technology to ensure bikes remain in the pilot areas.
Metro Councilmember Colby Sledge talked about the plan at its launch, which took place outside of GEODIS Park. He said it's a great opportunity for the city — and it's not costing them anything. The initial rollout will put 75 e-bikes in the urban core.
Sledge has long championed the program along with some of his colleagues, as well as Transportation Licensing Commissioner Carey Rogers. Both have worked to promote dockless e-bikes as a viable alternative to cars.
“Dockless e-bikes can help Nashvillians make short trips, like meeting up with friends or heading to a Nashville SC game, without getting in a car,” said Sledge. “With the investments we’re making in bike infrastructure, including new bike racks and protected bike lanes, dockless e-bikes will provide Nashvillians the freedom to enjoy our neighborhoods in a whole new way.”
However, this launch is not what the final program will ultimately look like. It still involves some docking, to keep track of the bikes and train riders on the limitations of the permitted areas.
They're also hoping to figure out where people will be riding them the most.
"So, one of the things NDOT has done to work with the companies who are providing the e-bikes is that there are 24 — and there will be more — bike racks that have been built," said Sledge. "So, as part of the pilot, bikes have to be re-docked into one of those bike racks, and they'll be indicated with the apps. So, we haven't gone purely dockless, and that's intentional. That's part of the pilot: to ensure that people are knowing how to ride them — knowing where to take them — and that we can manage going back and forth with those bikes."
Bird, Spin, and Lime will work with the city to address any issues that emerge as the multi-month pilot period progresses. During the pilot time, data will be captured and assessed to determine ways to enhance implementation across Nashville going forward.
“We’re extremely excited about bringing dockless e-bikes to Nashville in a safe and responsible way,” said NDOT Director Diana Alarcon. “Our goal as a department and city should be to offer a truly multimodal network that prioritizes the most vulnerable roadway users — including people riding bikes — and that’s why we’re committed to quickly and dramatically expanding Nashville’s bikeways network. We believe that by embracing dockless e-bike technology, we can start to change the way people think about their commutes.”
The pilot area was developed to exclude downtown while the Connect Downtown study continues. Recommendations from that study are expected in early Spring of 2023, and the next steps for the program will be determined at that time.
“We are focused on making it just as easy for people to move around cities via multimodal transportation as it is with a personal vehicle," said Tim Wilcox, Spin Government Partnerships Manager for the East. "This program is an important next step in making this a reality. We would like to thank NDOT, the Metro Council, and MTLC for their vision and leadership in this space. It is clear the city of Nashville shares the same vision as we do for a sustainable future of urban transportation.”
“We’re thrilled to be going multimodal in Nashville, one of our biggest and best cities in the country,” said Kyle Shoemaker, Operations Manager at Lime. “We have worked with the City, NDOT, and with our community partners to build a safe, reliable, and sustainable e-scooter program here and we can’t wait to see how Nashvillians take to our e-bikes. Thank you to the City of Nashville, the Metro Council, and NDOT for your commitment to building a safe and sustainable transportation network here by adding more and more micro-mobility options and the transit infrastructure to support them. We look forward to working with you to make this pilot a major success and to potentially build on its success with expansion in the future.”
"Since first launching in Nashville, we've seen how valuable micromobility is — for both residents and visitors — and this dockless e-bike program will provide riders with even more options,” said Adam Davis, Senior Manager of Government Partnerships with Bird. “With Bird, people are able to access affordable, reliable, and sustainable transportation for commuting, running errands, supporting local businesses and more, while reducing dependence on cars. We're thrilled to work with the City of Nashville on this effort and thank the Department of Transportation & Multimodal Infrastructure for their partnership throughout the process."
For more information on the pilot program, visit the Nashville government's website.