Metro's Transportation Licensing Commission on Thursday refused to issue permits for 32 "pedal vehicles" — including 14 pedal taverns — saying that the proliferation of the slow-moving vehicles, particularly those that are little more than mobile fraternity parties, are having a negative impact on traffic and the general milieu, such as it is, of downtown.
It's tempting to treat the heretofore extraordinarily permissive TLC like an anti-vaxxer who suddenly saw the light and got the jab. But grace goes a long way in 2021, so we'll just say we're happy they finally joined the side of the angels in the fight against the only successful transit program Nashville has had since the interurban went belly-up.
The commission also denied a request to extend the operating hours for pedal vehicles. Currently, the people-powered scourges have to stay off the roads between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m., also known as "the hours when people need to drive on major roads like, oh say, Broadway, for example, so they can get to work and/or see their families." The slobber barons of the pedal world felt like this was restricting their freedoms or something, because Luke from Ohio and his bros need to pound some Truly and listen to "Wagon Wheel" on repeat in the middle of downtown at 8:15 a.m. on a Tuesday.
"There's no way that we can find that there's any necessity right now for any of these," commission member Carey Rogers said Thursday, per The Tennessean. Not sure where Carey has been this entire time, but again, let's just be happy we're all on the same page for once.
Included in this pushback against proliferating pedal-powered puke palaces is Metro's Nachtburgemeester Butch "BUT THE ROOM NIGHTS!!1!" Spyridon, whose official title is president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, but whose de facto position is "the guy who basically decides what happens in the city if it can be said to affect tourism in any way whatsoever."
Spyridon told WKRN: “We are going to fight like hell to regulate. To me, the fun is gone. It’s just chaos. It’s like watching a train wreck, and you can’t turn away.” The reason you can't turn away is because a flatbed trailer carrying an Olympic-size swimming pool filled with half-cocked 20-somethings who have been drinking since they got on the plane in Iowa City is trying to make a left onto a one-way street at 6:02 p.m.
Spyridon said he's seen videos of underage drinking, Steve Austin-esque beer-tossing, marijuana smoking and even flashing. He's as shocked as Captain Renault.
“You want to be known for being safe, friendly, and easy to consume," Spyridon continues. "Well, we’re starting to lose some of those assets of really what built us." Yes, we are starting to lose those things, much as Derrick Henry is really starting to figure out how to be an effective running back.
Cynically, of course, all this blowback from the powers-who-are started because a tourist fell off one of those doofus wagons back in July, and the presumption is that if Nashville is no longer perceived as a safe place to get wackadoodle any time you want, potential wackadoodlers will go somewhere with a tad more regulation ... like Somalia. So yes, maybe, it really does come back to room nights.
But like the rail companies ponying up for Homer Plessy's appeal against the Separate Car Act, not because they were particularly concerned about racial equality but because they didn't want to have buy more rail cars to segregate passengers, this looks like a time when capitalist pursuit has an efficacious benefit to society.
One of the major problems here is that Metro can regulate pedal vehicles but can't regulate vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds, which would include most of the motorized woo wagons. They are the state's ambit. There was a bill to grant that authority to Metro, but it was delayed in this year's session of the General Assembly. Spyridon told WKRN it's going to come up, but given how the Republican Party — particularly in Tennessee — has devolved from a political philosophy advocating the sensible center and local control into one where the guiding principles are "whatever Trump says" and "owning the libs," don't hold your breath for the super-duper-majority to do anything beneficial for Nashville.
“We all believe you have to have the right balance of residents, visitors and employees," Spyridon said. "We’re losing the employees, and I got to believe the residents are starting to question."
Welcome aboard, bud.