Nashville is not known for being a particularly welcoming city for bicyclists.
And though it’s unclear whether Metro’s “Nashville GreenBikes” program will ever seriously change those realities, the fact that the city is expanding its public bike-share program after only one year of operation is encouraging.
Last week, Mayor Karl Dean announced Regions Bank is donating 100 bikes over the next two years, which Nashvillians can pick up at various spots (two currently and six eventually) and then pedal about town.
“This is another major step in our efforts to make Nashville a more bicycle-friendly city,” Dean said. “The bike-share program improves the health of our citizens, our transportation system and the quality of our environment — issues that are important to me.”
The bikes will be the classic cruiser model Regions uses in its ads. Though the color suggests lime, Regions calls it “life green,” pointing to “fresh out of the ground” grass as an aesthetic influence.
“The bike is a symbol of simplicity, a simpler time and simpler way of getting around,” said Jim Schmitz, Regions Middle Tennessee area president.
The bank unveiled its retro green bike-marketing symbol in 2007, and the environmentally friendly approach dovetails nicely with the current city program, which offers 26 free blue-and-yellow loaner bikes at downtown’s Music City Star Riverfront Station and the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center.
“Through this [donation], we’re making life better by encouraging members of the community to do something healthy,” said Schmitz, who declined to note the cost.
Downtown resident Alycia Buford-Penn said she uses the bike-share program every Saturday.
“We’re spreading the word to other family and friends,” said Buford-Penn, a fitness advocate who often walks from downtown to her job at Vanderbilt.
Buford-Penn said she has seen a continued rise in ridership, an observation bolstered by statistics: According to the mayor’s office, which oversees the program, there were 150 registered users in October. Today, there are approximately 500.