State legislators from throughout the country joined together on Thursday, August 17 at 7:00 am in Nashville, Tennessee for the second annual NCSL Bipartisan Bike Ride. The legislators and their staff and family members shared a leisurely cruise along Nashville’s new Stones River Greenway to celebrate cycling during the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) annual meeting.
The ride, hosted by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Texas) and State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Tennessee), was a huge success. Sixteen elected officials and approximately 25 legislative staffers registered and attended the ride from all over the country.
After several months of planning by Texas Bicycle Coalition staff in Austin and Dallas and a 25-hour drive, Coalition staff members arrived in Nashville with 50 new Trek bicycles. They made the trip in a “road train”, a large RV pulling a 20-foot trailer (donated to the Coalition by Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin). Trek donated a major chunk of the bicycles and made the rest available on incredibly generous terms. The 7.2 FX Hybrids were expertly assembled by the staff at the Bicycle Sport Shop as another contribution to the bike ride.
The event began with fresh hot coffee, Nature Valley Granola Bars and Yoplait Yogurt provided by General Mills. A Gaylord Hotel 56-passenger luxury bus took the NCSL attendees on a 15-minute scenic drive to the bike path trial head. During the bus trip, the host senators and Leslie Robbins of NCSL and Lee Anderson of General Mills made a few welcoming and bike-friendly comments. After briefing attendees on what to expect on the ride, Texas Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Robin Stallings explained the “Safe Passing Bills” now sweeping the country.
The weather was perfect for the eight-mile ride on the Stones River Greenway. The asphalt path was smooth as silk with a few mildly challenging hills as it snaked gracefully along the beautiful Stones River. Easy going conversation between participants included chatter about the wonderful bike path. WalkBike Nashville President, Bob Murphy, mustered seven very experienced local cyclists to fit bikes, helmets and shepherd the group expertly and gently along the route.
The participants were ecstatic on the shuttle bus after their ride. Everyone praised the new Trek hybrid bikes. Even the novice cyclists found them comfortable and easy to shift. Coalition staff and volunteers were able to provide just the right size for all riders. Four state legislators said that they had decided to buy bikes. Attendees were very proud of their souvenir Bell helmets (courtesy of Bell Sports and General Mills), and some said that they intended to carry their helmets all day to “show off”. Most of the elected officials also indicated an interest in receiving more information about bicycle issues when they registered online for the event.
The NCSL Bipartisan Bike Ride’s success makes it easy to imagine a day when bike paths rival golf courses as the place where deals are made and the nation’s business is conducted.