If you fancy yourself an outdoor fitness fanatic, the facts on a Nashville lifestyle are stacked against you. Here's some shock and awe for you:
• The Surface Transportation Policy Project ranked Nashville as the 10th worst pedestrian city in the United States.
• Of 338 miles of roadways surveyed in Nashville, 75 percent were identified as unsuitable for bicycling.
• Pedestrians and bicyclists account for 7 percent of all traffic deaths in Tennessee. And…
• The obesity rate in Tennessee is 22.7 percent — one of the highest in the country.
But, before you despair, know that you aren't alone. The raison d'être for the folks behind Walk/Bike Nashville is to make Music City kinder to pedestrians and cyclists and a fitter, greener and safer community as a whole.
And, in that spirit, the organization is hosting its sixth annual Tour de Nash. The family-friendly event features various walks and bike tours through the city. The routes are police-guarded, so it's a safe, one-of-a-kind way to get out and tour the city.
"[Walk/Bike Nashville is] an advocacy group, and once a year we have this showcase to encourage the community to get out and get active and to let them know that our greenways and walkways and bikeways exist and we should take advantage of them," said Laurel Davis, event planner for Tour de Nash. "You can use walking and biking as alternate forms of transportation and exercise. It's important because obesity rates are rising every single day in Tennessee and across the country. While everyone doesn't have access to a gym, especially in this economic climate, greenways and sidewalks are free and everyone has access to them. There's a natural and an educational value in them, and families can go out on them together."
The Tour de Nash offers several ways for you to stretch your legs; you can choose from:
Family Walk: 5K (3.2 mile) walking tour of the Eastbank Greenway and downtown, which takes and estimated one to two hours. ($10 for individuals, $15 for families of two or more.)
Family Ride: 6-mile or 12-mile Family Bike Ride, along bike lanes in East Nashville and portions of the Shelby Bottoms Greenway, which takes an estimated one to two hours. ($10 for individuals, $15 for families of two or more.)
Gran Tours: 27-mile and 50-mile routes highlighting the many bikeways in Nashville, along East Nashville, portions of Shelby Bottoms, Metro Center, Fisk University's campus, Percy Warner Park and the Belmont neighborhood. These rides will take two to seven hours based on ability. ($45 per individual.)
The Tour de Nash course selections allow participants to tailor the experience to their fitness and comfort level. And, while 50 miles, the longest distance of the Gran Tour, may sound daunting, there's no time limit — the only objective is to enjoy yourself, Davis said.
"This is an event for the whole family. We have participants from 6-year-olds on training wheels to avid cyclists training for triathlons," Davis said. "This is not a race, it's not competitive, it's just a fun ride [or walk] for an afternoon out on the sidewalks and greenways."
More than 2,000 people are expected to take part in the tour. Even Mayor Karl Dean will participate, once again doing the 12-mile Family Ride. The event will take place rain or shine, but in the case of thunderstorms, visit walkbikenashville.org or tourdenash/racesonline.com for details. Davis recommends sunscreen and comfortable exercise clothes, and helmets are mandatory for those doing one of the rides.
Rest stops spaced out over the routes provide for another fun perk of the event. Sponsored by local businesses, these stands are stocked with heaping mounds of goodies like bagel pieces, cookies, peanut butter sandwiches, fitness bars and fruit to keep riders and walkers energized during their workouts. Plus, the courses, which are clearly marked with spray paint on the pavement, are cleared of traffic.
"For a lot of folks, this is the first time they've ever ridden this distance. Twenty-seven miles is a long distance to go. With the tour, we close off intersections so it’s a seamless ride, and these stops let people stop for five or 10 minutes, grab some food or a cookie to refuel them and encourage them and help them keep going," Davis said. "Definitely one of the advantages of the tour and why people like to ride is because it’s a seamless ride. Not every day can you have every intersection blocked off and manned by police."
The Tour de Nash starts and ends at the Eastbank Greenway, which is on the river at LP Field. After walkers and riders finish their courses, they will be greeted by a health fair sponsored by Get Fit TN!, a statewide awareness program dedicated to educating people about diabetes, obesity and active lifestyles. A variety of vendors, from multiple sclerosis advocates to hula hoopers, will be on hand to give advice and highlight new health and fitness ideas.
For those who do the Gran Tour, the $45 registration fee will give you a free membership to Walk/Bike Nashville. Davis said she hopes people will consider joining the advocacy group and be a part of the movement beyond just the Tour de Nash. The more voices fighting for additional greenways and stricter laws protecting pedestrians and cyclists the better, she said.
"We all know there is power in numbers," Davis said. "Be in touch with Council members and Congress members to make it known that your family utilizes greenways and appreciates them and that we need them to have upkeep and progress and for all the greenways to connect. And we need stronger laws so that cars can't park in bike lanes — that's a huge issue — and we need clean sidewalks."
What: Tour de Nash
When: 8 a.m. Saturday, with registration at 7 a.m.
Where: Eastbank Greenway at Titans Stadium, One Titans Way
Info: tourdenash.racesonline.com, walkbikenashville.org