Protected Bike Lanes Modernize Mobilization along Nashville’s Music Row

With numerous record labels, recording studios and production houses populating the streets of Music Row, the iconic area is considered the heart of Nashville’s entertainment industry. The historic district is not only popular among tourists, but also serves as a link between two major universities in the area and offers connections to numerous downtown neighborhoods and businesses. In an effort to increase bicycle and pedestrian safety, Metro Nashville-Davidson County Public Works (Metro) worked with KCI to redesign the bike lanes and increase signal infrastructure in the high-traffic one-way corridor. Our team conducted a feasibility study, participated in community outreach and education, and then served as the lead engineer in the traffic engineering, design and implementation of the state’s first and longest left-sided, protected bike lanes.

As the surrounding neighborhoods and universities have grown, so has the increase in ridership. The new bike lane design helped bring facilities up to current standards and eliminated a lot of potential conflicts that we identified in our study and analysis.

Brandon Taylor, PESenior Project Manager

Brandon Taylor, PE
Music Row Bikeway
Bicycling as a viable form of transportation needs to be integrated with connected, safe and convenient infrastructure that appeals to all ages and abilities.

In the last several years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of communities designing and constructing bicycle facilities as part of their transportation infrastructure. With plans already underway to repave several streets along Music Row, Metro wanted to take the opportunity to improve the corridor for pedestrians and cyclists. By pairing the two projects together, the agency was able to cost-effectively implement traffic enhancements that benefited all modes. The Music Row corridor previously included traditional dedicated bike lanes on the right side of the travel lane, adjacent to on-street parking. Although this existing design was acceptable under prior guidelines and common in many urban settings, newer design principles have been developed to help cities create complete streets that are safe and enjoyable for bicyclists. The original cross-section did not provide a buffer between travel lanes or parked vehicles, placing the bicyclists in the dooring zone where they may unexpectedly encounter a vehicular door opening. High parking turnover along the corridor also created potential safety conflicts, and daily delivery trucks and tour buses pulling over along the corridor were an issue as the vehicles either blocked the bike lanes or obstructed the visibility of the bicyclists. Our team explored alternative design applications that would address safety and operational issues both along the corridor at several high-volume intersections and through a major roundabout.

Music Row Bikeway
The Music Row Bikeway project now provides Nashville tourists with the ability to safely use bicycle facilities in areas that may be unfamiliar to them.

Employing considerations that would increase the safety and use for both bicyclists and pedestrians, KCI worked closely with Walk Bike Nashville, a local advocacy group, to better understand user needs and to explore design options. Community engagement sessions with the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods also helped to determine where specific problems existed and how they could be addressed. “If you ask anyone in Nashville, traffic has become a major concern, so providing another safe alternative to get around town has really been desired among residents, students and people who work in the area,” said Senior Project Engineer Josh Green, PE. Through the feasibility process, engineers collected speeds, volume and turning movement counts along the corridor and analyzed each of the options from an operational standpoint. After thorough research and analysis, our team proposed reconfiguring the traditional one-way roadway to include protected bike lanes on the left-side of the road as well as pedestrian signal infrastructure upgrades at key intersections.

Music Row Bikeway
In addition to providing input on design concepts, Walk Bike Nashville also helped to educate both cyclists and drivers on how to use the new bike boxes.

Running along three miles of Music Row, this design places bike riders up against the left-side of the curb, making cyclists more visible to drivers and reducing the risk of collision with parked or turning cars. Protected lanes also provide additional separation between vehicles and bicycles with the use of flexible delineators. Additionally, bike boxes were installed at high-volume intersections to help improve safety by allowing riders to wait in front of queuing vehicles during the red signal phase of a traffic light. These areas are designated by green paint, an advance stop bar for bicyclists, and are located at the head of the traffic lane. This design treatment is expected to improve the visibility of the separated bike lane and reinforces expected bicyclist behaviors at signalized intersections. Since bike boxes are typically implemented on the right side, our team assisted Metro in gaining experimental approval of the application for a left-sided facility from the Federal Highway Administration.

By completing a thorough evaluation and public involvement process, communities can understand how proposed bikeways impact all roadway users and the surrounding neighborhood. Since the implementation of these innovative design applications, bicycle use along the corridor has increased, and more tourists are utilizing the city’s bike share initiative. Additionally the new cross-section configuration resulted in slower vehicular speeds along the corridor, with as much as a 21% reduction in speeds at one count location. “The Music Row Bikeway project sets the standard for how traditional one-way roadways can be redesigned to not only more efficiently move traffic, but to also safely accommodate bicycle and pedestrian movements,” said Metro Nashville Public Works Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, Jason Radinger. Evaluation of this bike project will be ongoing as roadway users of all types continue to adjust to the new facilities and environments.