NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — City officials with the Nashville Department of Transportation & Multimodal Infrastructure (NDOT) recently announced a pilot program for e-bikes in multiple areas of town as part of an ongoing effort to make the city greener and to increase multimodal transportation in the city. 

But how did the pilot program come to be? 

According to Cortnye Stone with NDOT, the partnership is a continuation of Metro Nashville’s Shared Urban Mobility Vehicle (SUMD) contract with the three e-scooter companies. 

“Bird, Lime and Spin were successful in their response to the Shared Urban Mobility Vehicle RFP process,” she told News 2. “There are in the second year of their contract to offer SUMD services to Nashville.” 

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The contract stipulates that the companies can offer both scooter and e-bike service operations in the city, and they are “acting in good faith and honoring the department’s request in responsibly introducing e-bikes to the curb while the Connect Downtown study is ongoing,” Stone added. 

Through the life of the pilot program, NDOT officials will be studying how rider behavior is similar and different to their use of the scooters in town, Stone said. The study will also look at the effectiveness of corralled parking and the popular routes people use with the e-bikes. Additionally, like with the scooters, use of the e-bikes helps contribute to a greener Nashville by reducing the dependence on motor vehicles to travel in the city. 

“E-bikes have a dramatically lower carbon footprint than cars,” Stone said. “Anyone who is commuting using an e-bike rather than automobile is reducing emissions and helping to make Nashville a greener, cleaner city.” 

Because the pilot program goes in line with the previous RFP, any costs associated with it are borne by the companies, rather than Metro. If the program is successful, Stone said, future expansion of it could provide revenue for the city. 

“The companies would pay to operate the e-bikes in the same manner they pay to operate scooters,” she said. 

The pilot program is currently running alongside another study happening downtown, which is why the bikes are not currently set up in the downtown proper area. If someone using the e-bike elects to take the bike out of the specified tracking area, Stone said, it would become much more difficult to operate. 

“The electric assist will cease to function if the rider exits the pilot area, forcing the rider to pedal an 85-pound bicycle manually,” she said. 

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Instead, riders should use the e-bike racks NDOT officials have installed all around the pilot area. The racks were installed in November, Stone said, and only bore NDOT labor costs, as the department already owned them. 

Like the Connect Downtown study program, the e-bike pilot program will be evaluated next spring. Both programs will have concluded their study windows, Stone said, and whether the e-bike program continues depends on the results of that study.