In preparation for the 2019 Mayoral Elections, Walk Bike Nashville held a forum featuring the top four candidates. On Wednesday morning, Mayor David Briley, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Councilman John Cooper and Dr. Carol Swain were on the same stage for the first time. The focus of the forum was to find out the candidates vision for walking, bicycling, reducing traffic fatalities and ensuring our streets serve all Nashvillians.
“Walking, biking and transportation really form the core of every other issue,” said Nora Kern, executive director of Walk Bike Nashville. “If our friends and families can’t walk to the best jobs, get to the best schools, be able to access the city—then a lot of the other issues that we’re fighting for in the city, they will have problems. It connects all of them.”
The moderator, Tony Gonzalez, reporter from Nashville Public Radio, asked the candidates questions as they discussed the future of getting around Nashville.
Briley, who is an avid biker, said that the quality of pedestrian and cycling environment is important to having “healthy city that is vibrant.”
Briley said that not only does it help the environment, but that it is also about equity. Thirty percent of Davidson County residents do not have a car.
“My family is just like that,” Mayor Briley said. “My wife has lost her sight and cannot drive, so every day she has to rely on pedestrian infrastructure to get to and from work. So it is very personal to me.”
Rep. John Ray Clemmons reminisced about his childhood memories biking through his childhood neighborhood with his friends.
“Right now I don’t’ feel safe doing [that],” he said. “Our sidewalks are not safe enough; our bike lanes are not safe enough. This is a quality of life issue that affects every Nashville family. We must do better to improve the connectivity of neighborhoods and the accessibility of public transportation.”
Clemmons also said that he feels that “too many neighborhoods across this county have been neglected too long.”
Each candidate had ways they would improve transportation thought the city. Councilman John Cooper would like to explore employer incentives to reduce traffic like in Seattle, Washington.
“We can learn from other cities like working with employers to incentivize and pay cash to workers not to use parking and to rideshare. It’s made a huge difference in Seattle.
Nashville is in an environment where that clearly is going to be a great tool.
Cooper also wants connected greenways and protected paths to downtown Nashville.
Dr. Carol Swain said that she would explore doing away with certain bike lanes, particularly in areas that see limited use—as well was instituting an Uber-like system to get around the city.
“Part of my plan as mayor would be to see if we can replace the big city buses that are mostly empty, with vans that people can use with an app-like system to get the rides to come to them. That would encourage more use of transportation.”
All candidates felt that the city needs to revisit the ‘scooter issue.’
“Scooters can really play a role in that last mile to half mile of transit,” said Mayor Briley. “We adopted a regulation some months ago to experiment with scooters, and that experiment has failed. We have got to look at it again to see how to improve on it. I had the opportunity to speak to the mother of the young man who died last week, and anytime we have that sense of loss in the community with something that we put out there, we have to go back and readdress the decision.”
Councilman Cooper agrees that changes need to be made such as mandating helmets.
“All of our hearts go out to the family and the young man who lost his life riding a scooter,” said Rep. Clemmons. “I’ve tried to like scooters. I just can’t. Its’ never going to be a last mile option until we build the necessary infrastructure to make it possible for it to be an option. We need to revisit this issue and be more thoughtful about how we regulate scooters.”