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Monday, March 31, 2014

West End MIddle School PTO Meeting…Delayed Until Tomorrow



Tonight, Trish Mixon and I were supposed to speak at the PTO meeting at West End Middle School at 5:30pm.  Unfortunately, the meeting was moved to tomorrow (4/1/2014).  

If anyone can come to support us - we would love it.  It will likely be short - just an introduction to the Bowling Av Sidewalk Pilot Project and to get people excited about our public meeting being held on 4/23/14…





Here is a very rough copy of my prepared talk - I made it but planned on just winging it once there…

***

Thank you allowing us a few minutes of your time.

I am a pediatric allergist at Vanderbilt, mother of 3, neighbor of West End Middle School and, on the side, run a blog focused on sidewalks in Nashville called Shade Parade Nashville.

Through my work as a pediatric allergist, I became interested in the state of sidewalks in Nashville.   I have noticed children with, for example, asthma do worse on poor air quality days and also when they concurrently suffer from obesity.

As a blogger about sidewalks, I have learned that Nashville has been voted the 2nd worst walking city in the US by the Huffington Post and has the 2nd lowest sidewalk to roadway ratios compared to other cities polled according to our Davidson County Strategic Sidewalk Plan created in 2003 and updated in 2008.

The obesity rate in the US has essentially quadrupled in the last 40 years while the number of children walking to school has dropped 30% during the same time period.

When parents are polled about their reluctance to allow children to walk to school - safety is sited consistently.


We therefore seemingly have the perfect storm in Nashville - a lack of pedestrian infrastructure helping to create an environment that makes it a challenge to walk, leading to increased car use, which then leads to increased poor air quality days and obesity both of which further dissuade people from getting out and walking.


Therefore, Trish Mixon and I created a pilot project to complete the sidewalk on Bowling Av to its terminus at Woodmont Av. As you know, West End Middle School has no sidewalk along its western side because the sidewalk ends at West End Av.  Jeff Keith, your principal, has been very supportive of this idea and suggested that we come and talk with you tonight.  

We have also discussed the idea to our Councilmen Jason Holleman and Sean McGuire.  Sean has graciously agreed to add it to the Capital Budget (essentially a wish list).  We have discussed easement issues with Public Works and have been assured there are no issues that would delay the project.  Lastly, and most importantly, we have written a letter to gauge support to each house that would be effected on Bowling and have had overwhelming support.  

We are asking for the support of parents and students to get this project done.  We invite you to come to a public meeting we are holding on April 23rd, at 630p, here in the library.

***





Friday, March 28, 2014

Sidewalk Project #1, Bowling Av, Update --- Invitation to Public Meeting - April 23rd, 6:30pm, West End Middle School Library



Sidewalk Project #1, Bowling Av, Update

 Invitation to Public Meeting - April 23rd, 6:30pm, West End Middle School Library






Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The High Line - the Ultimate Pocket Park




The High Line on NYC's west side may represent the ultimate pocket park.  

Essentially, an abandoned train trestle fairly universally hated as a dark, unseemly, and hulking structure was slated for demolition - an action strongly supported by the neighborhood associations in the area.






 Until two guys happened to attend a public meeting and recognized the structure represented a unique opportunity. Persevering, over years, they worked to transform it into a public park.  








***

Against all odds, new walkable places can be created. 


***





http://www.thehighline.org











***

Shade Parade Nashville strongly encourages you to consider underutilized spaces in your neighborhood as potential places for pocket parks.  

Send us pictures & address.

Thank you in advance for helping to make Nashville more walkable!











Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Differences in Quality of Life When Living on a Busy Road Versus a Road with Light Traffic




According to a study by Donald Appleyard (1970), those living on a street with light traffic reported having three times more friends and twice as many acquaintances on their street as those on a heavily trafficked street.

Living on a road with light traffic (2000 vehicles per day) = 3.0 friends per person and 6.3 acquaintances

Living on a road with heavy traffic (16,000 vehicles per day) = 0.9 friends per person and 3.1 acquaintances 









Appleyard concluded that traffic does not just take over the physical space of the road.  It had a 'zone of influence' which intimidates and takes over a space psychologically.  As the speed and traffic increased, the 'zone of influence' grew and the area people described as their home decreased.  Essentially, those on busy streets had less interaction with their neighborhood and were significantly less connected to it.  





Monday, March 24, 2014

Walking Meetings




'Sitting is the smoking of our generation' - Nilofer Merchant


Wow. 

Strong words...but, in terms of risk for serious medical conditions such as obesity, breast and colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, being sedentary greatly increases your risk.

According to Nilofer Merchant, who gave the TED talk below, we are now sitting more than we sleep per day 9.3 hours: 7.5 hours receptively. 





video




A solution may come in the form of walking meetings rather than traditional sit down meetings. 



Sources:

http://www.feetfirst.org/walk-and-maps/walking-meetings




Sunday, March 23, 2014

Walking to School: an Important Life Skills Teacher




An acquaintance said that she worried children who do not walk anywhere on their own are not learning the basic life skills of independence, direction and timing…




I couldn't agree more.  I am also highly worried about our obesity rate in Nashville:  greater than 30% in adults!  

In addition to the frankly healthy activity of walking, getting out on foot teaches one many things and enriches life.  


What are we teaching our children when we drive them everywhere?  Can you make an argument that we are teaching them healthy ways?  How to be self-sufficient?  

In terms of time being sedentary, the car drive time adds up quickly.  In addition, the school runs in Nashville adds a significant amount of traffic and air pollution (ie:  idling cars in the queue!) to our environment.












'Over the past few decades, a number of social and environmental changes have limited children’s access to safe places where they can walk, bike and play. As a result, children and adolescents are less physically active than they were a generation ago. For example, traffic dangers, neighborhoods that lack sidewalks and urban sprawl have contributed to a sharp decline in the number of students ages 5 to 18 who walk or bike to school, from 42 percent in 1969 to only 13 percent in 2001.

This decrease in active transport to school coincided with an alarming increase in childhood obesity. During the past four decades the obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has more than quadrupled (from 4.2 to 17 percent), and the obesity rate for adolescents ages 12 to 19 has more than tripled (from 4.6 to 17.6 percent). Policies and practices that address environmental barriers to daily physical activity are critical to preventing obesity among children of all ages, and supporting active transport to school presents an excellent opportunity to increase daily physical activity among youth'.






Adding to the health benefits and obesity prevention of walking - the sidewalk can teach additional things (independance, timing, direction) and help create a healthy internal life (public connection with your neighbors, experience of the outdoors, mental clearing).

***

'The city area, rich or poor or in between, harmed by an interesting sidewalk life and plentiful sidewalk contacts has yet to be found'.

An 'exuberent and varied' sidewalk life - a public life - teaches children (and all people) many things and provides a rich reward when engaged with.  

Compare this to sterile 'grey' areas of your city.  Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities accuretly pins these areas as a 'Great Blight of Dullness'.  






An active sidewalk also provides a safety net as, with this rich public activity, comes 'eyes on the street' - individuals adding up to a culture of people watchers willing to lend a hand to keep all free from harm if ever need be.  






***

Let's help make Nashville a culture where the 'intricate ballet' of sidewalk culture grows for the health and education of all. 



You are formally invited to a public meeting April 23rd 2014, 6:30 pm, at West End Middle School library. 


We are going to be discussing need for sidewalks in Nashville with a special focus on a pilot project: Bowling Ave.




Sources:

http://www.rwjf.org/en/research-publications/find-rwjf-research/2009/05/walking-and-biking-to-school---physical-activity-and-health-outc.html

Jacobs, Jane.  The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961




Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sidewalks are for People!








Are you frustrated by lack of good working sidewalks in Nashville?

Are you concerned that the pace of new sidewalk production in Nashville is so slow?

Do you long for an active rich public life?

Do you live near a school that your children literally cannot walk to due to safety concerns?

Do you attempt to go for a stroll only to find yourself dashing off into a ditch when cars come to close or are moving too fast?

Then you are formally invited to a public meeting April 23rd 2014, 6:30 pm, at West End Middle School library.  

We are going to be discussing need for sidewalks in Nashville with a special focus on a pilot project:  Bowling Ave.    












Let's get together and start moving Nashville towards a modern healthier life citywide…




Friday, March 21, 2014

Making Cities Safe for Pedestrians by Ticketing Drivers More Aggressively?






If you follow pedestrian vs vehicle accidents in Nashville - you will see a trend.

 Language such as:

  • 'probably won’t face criminal charges' 
  • 'police say pedestrians should be sure to look both ways before crossing the street' 
  • 'no one has been charged'
  • 'the driver of the car was cited for driving without proof of insurance by Metro Police' (as the only statement of charge despite having struck a pedestrian). 


The language, often found at the end of a media report on the accident, implies that there is no penalty if you hit a pedestrian.  



Driver charged in pedestrian crash that killed Hume-Fogg student






In December, Elena Zamora, a 17 year old junior at Hume-Fogg in Nashville, was walking east to west on Church Street in a crosswalk at 1 p.m. when she was struck and killed by a tractor trailer that was turning right from Church Street onto Rosa L. Parks Boulevard.

Despite the law that states that turning vehicles are to yield to pedestrians.





Ms. Zamora was walking essentially where the arrow points in the diagram above.  The black rectangle represents the truck that struck her.







The driver, Troy Devitt, 45, of Florence, AL, told officers he didn't see the pedestrian in the crosswalk. Metro police announced Thursday that Devitt was booked on a charge of failure to yield right-of-way

 Zamora had the signal to walk, and the truck had a green light.



Despite it being mid-day, the driver 'didn't see' Ms. Zamora.  Just for a moment consider, too, the charge of 'failure to yield right-of-way' instead of a much more serious charge.  When you read these reports closely they give a strong impression that Nashville doesn't really care about the rights of its pedestrians.  As our city grows, this is going to have to change.  


Creating a culture in Nashville that is safe for pedestrians also means ticketing those who 
infringe on the rights of pedestrians. 


If it is known that there are strict penalties against drivers for injuring pedestrians it could detour accidents and instruct drivers to be cautious rather than cavalier.

 Instead of the media stamping 'no one was charged' at the end of most reports of pedestrian vs vehicles maybe there could be an investigation & heavy penalty.

 After all, pedestrians have the right-of-way.


Sources:












Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Eyes on the Sidewalk or In Defense of the Corner Bar






A measure of safety is obtained with sidewalks.  Not only the physical safety provided by buffering from the road but psychological safety if the sidewalk is well used. 





'Eyes' on the sidewalk are important.  

'The bedrock attribute of a successful city district is that a person must feel safe and secure on the street among all these strangers'. To this end, what if Nashville had neighborhoods designated as Walking Districts?  I can't say I can find much precedence for this idea.  What I like about it is that it would establish certain neighborhoods on a map as rich and interesting to walk.  It would also alert drivers to anticipate walkers therefore increasing pedestrian safety.  

' A well used city street is apt to be a safe street'.  Clearly, in order to be well used there must be a significant level of amusement and density.  There must be places to go!  'The basic requisite for such surveillance is a substantial quantity of stores and other public places sprinkled along the sidewalks of a district'. This is an argument for corner bars and restaurants mixed in neighborhoods.  It also is an explanation for why Bedford Av, in Nashville, feels currently like a failed development despite its prettiness.  






'There must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street'.  

'The sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers'.  It needs to be rich not bland and affected by the 'Great Blight of Dullness'.








'Nobody enjoys sitting on the stoop or looking out a window at an empty street'.  At least, not for long.  'Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity'. 







'The sight of people attracts still other people'.



Sources:  The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, 1961




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nashville is Hot - Could Sidewalks be Hot, Too?



Sidewalks are Hot in Nashville!





Shade Parade Nashville wishes this was the case!  Since November 2013, in an attempt to get people thinking about the subject, I have been writing exclusively about sidewalks in Nashville.

Sidewalks, strange to my mind, have not been a hot topic in Nashville until possibly recently.  A quick google search shows only a handful of articles focused on sidewalks in Nashville.   A 2001 article, entitled 'We Desperately Need Sidewalks' (Nashville Scene, Nov 22, 2001) states 'Nashville is in deep sidewalk poverty'.  It goes on to say 'fortuitiously, Mayor Bill Purcell presented a capital spending plan a couple of weeks ago that retired any notion that the city doesn't plan to construct sidewalks'. 

Well, where are the sidewalks?  In 2003, Mayor Bill Purcell allocated more $20 million and pledged 25 new miles of sidewalks in Nashville.  Purcell actually campaigned on a platform of 'Sidewalks and Schools'.  

And, yet as of 2008, we were rated the 2nd worst walking city in America.  Our sidewalk to road ratio is grim:  0.35:1 equating to roughly a third of our streets having a sidewalk.  In the last 2 years, we have had 3 miles of new sidewalks completed. The budget for sidewalks for 2014 has been allocated.  This implies that sidewalks have been forgotten once again.

Yet, we have serious issues:  increasing traffic, greater than 30% obesity, kids walking in cow paths to get to schools, bus stops that literally let you off onto a tiny concrete pad without any type of connectivity, non-ADA compliance is the norm, pedestrian deaths, vehicles stubbornly refusing to relinquish their Turf and disregarding the right-of-way of pedestrians.   

***

As sidewalks articles dribbled into the news, progress in sidewalk production has been painfully slow in Nashville.  

Interestingly, tension, surrounding sidewalks, was revealed during a recent Metro Council meeting over a pedestrian bridge planned for the Gulch.  A number of Council Members discussed their frustrations at not having access to funding for sidewalks in their districts triggered by the proposal of a large pedestrian foot bridge for the Gulch with an estimated cost of between $15-16 million.  






Shade Parade Nashville is for sidewalks - any sidewalks that will work (preferably tree lines, with connectivity, without obstacles such as curb cuts and telephone poles).  

We love the idea of this bridge - it looks amazing and will help deconstruct another huge hurdle to walking in Nashville - the super block.  

But we need more and faster.  Shade Parade Nashville is dedicated to increasing sidewalks in Nashville & wishes for a complete and coherent plan for this to be accomplished for all (and soon!).  






Sources:

We Desperately Need Sidewalks, Nashville Scene, Nov 22, 2001.

Public Works Still Poring Over Sidewalk and Bikeways List, The City Paper, May 12, 2009.

Council Slows Mayor's Progress on Gulch-SoBro Pedestrian Bridge, By Michael Cass, The Tennessean, Feb 18, 2014.






Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nashvillians: $25k For a Park in Your Neighborhood???



A friend from my neighborhood passed this along today:


FYI:  The deadline for submissions is this Friday, March 14, 2014!

Thought you may be interested in this opportunity to nominate your favorite greenspace for a $25,000 make-over, funded by Bridgestone’s ‘Fuel the Cause’ program. Note the deadline for nominations is this Friday, March 14, midnight eastern time. Feel free to pass this on! Info and link:

FUEL THE CAUSE: HELP BRIDGESTONE TRANSFORM A GREEN SPACE IN NEED

At Bridgestone, we are constantly looking for new ways to Rethink Green. Help us make a difference in your community with the Fuel the Cause transformation project. Simply nominate a park, playground, or any other community green space that could use a helping hand and we’ll give the winning location a $25,000 makeover. See the official rules for full details.

http://www.bridgestonetire.com/ go to Help Fuel the Cause: Learn More.

Good luck!


This was Shade Parade Nashville's submission for a pocket park idea on Bowling Av:

Nashville is a wonderful city and currently red hot.  A growing city of over 600,000 people and yet we have a dearth of public parks and spaces.  We are rated the 2nd worst walking city in the US partly because we lack needed infrastructure such as sidewalks and parks.  Additionally, our community is known to be greater than 30% obese - an alarming statistic that demands close attention.  Admittedly, we have designed ourselves into 'The Great Blight of Dullness' but we are witnessing the shimmer of something new.   The city is changing…and you can help!




It is time for Nashvillians to step up and step out!  In this regard, we desperately need more public parks and I propose we turn our many overlooked places, such as the beautiful creek running under Bowling Av, into a pocket park.  Currently, this creek bed is hidden under a tangle of weeds, debris and gnarled guardrails.  Unusual for Nashville, there is actually a sidewalk on one side of the street, which would increase pedestrian accessibility.  In addition, West End Middle School is less than 1/4 mile away.  Lastly, it is settled squarely in a neighborhood with a high level of foot traffic.  Getting people to get out on foot, then stay for a while, requires some level of reward and amusement, therefore changing this dull spot into a pocket park would exponentially increase the vitality of Nashville for all.
***



In addition, I would love to create a pocket park out of the creek along Powell Rd and the deserted space where Thompson Rd merges onto Powell at the Wendy's.  Both are pictured respectively below.








Even though I cannot find good data on Nashville and its parks, I feel comfortable saying we are lacking.  When I think of our distribution of parks compared to other major cities it seems pretty obvious that we are behind the curve. In addition, we have so many forgotten places like the ones above.

If you have a park idea for Nashville - please consider a submission at:


Deadline is Friday (March 14, 2014)!







Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sidewalk Project #5 - One Hundred Oaks, Nashville, TN



Sidewalk Project #5 - One Hundred Oaks, Nashville, TN

A frequent complaint heard in Nashville is the need for additional transportation, other than a personal vehicle, is not needed because current utilization of alternative methods is low.  Mostly, right now, this is the focused criticism on the AMP.  Why build a better public transportation option if the one now is little used?


This same argument has been stated in regards to sidewalks in Nashville.  Why build them when people do not use them?  



Why don't people walk more in Nashville?  

This question is a central focus for Shade Parade Nashville.  Why don't people walk more in Nashville?  Does design have something to do with it?  Would walking (and taking the bus) be a more viable option if sidewalks were created with connectivity, interest and proper scale for the pedestrian?  

A striking visual example is seen in a walking tour around One Hundred Oaks in Nashville. Vanderbilt has a medical center here above an old mall with numerous busy clinics on the upper floors. Before Vanderbilt moved in, this mall was holding on by a thread - high vacancy rates, a feeling that time had moved on…now, it is a fairly bustling community.   


I took a quick survey of the area on foot - taking about 20 minutes.  Starting at the entrance: 




This is the bus stop for One Hundred Oaks.  




Note the small concrete pad adjacent to the bus stop.  

This is it.  You are literally dropped onto a small pad with no where for a pedestrian to really go.



You have 3 possibilities once dropped off by the bus.  1) Follow a cow path north or south along the landscaping and a high stone wall.  2) Cross at a marked cross walk to Home Depot and other big box stores (there is a sidewalk on the other side of the road but without any  buffer, traffic at 40 mph, comfort is moderate at best). 3) Turn and walk up the entrance pictured below.  Note the design geared to cars only.  





On the entrance ramp, the landscaping clearly implies that this is not a pedestrian path.  There are actually thorny rose bushes that make it difficult to walk on the little grass cow path.  


In addition to the big box stores that line Powell Av, there are a number of small business including a burrito spot, a coffee house and The Yellow Porch.  I would think these business would benefit from having the many Vanderbilt employees come over for lunch and a coffee but the going is tough on foot.  

In order to get to them, you have to cross Thompson Rd best done at the north entrance to One Hundred Oaks.  


The crossing has a walk signal as you cross Thompson but you are let off on a 'corner' that is an egress from a strip mall.  This spot has no signage to alert the pedestrian when to cross making for a confusing situation. 

The little patch of sidewalk then ends…



Now, to continue, you must walk on the shoulder of the road with cars passing at 40 mph.

The next intersection, at Powell Rd, is clearly not made for pedestrians.  




A cow path does exist.


You can see the beginning of a sidewalk up ahead in this picture below - inexplicably, it does not extend to the corner where the intersection is.  




The bank, on the corner, has added a small sidewalk that has very limited connectivity.

This picture above shows you the bus stop up ahead.  You can see you would have to walk literally in the road to reach it. Who is going to take this bus???  Would you let your children or your elderly parents???  Would you take it?  This is an uncomfortable and frankly dangerous walk.




In addition to the bus stops, there are a number of curiosities found during this walk around One Hundred Oaks in Nashville.  

My favorite is this image -



In addition to the frank weirdness and waste of this stairway to nowhere - take a few minutes and look closely at this picture.  It consists of a huge swirl of cars, parking lots, wasted space, big box stores, trains and highways that have been created with many millions of dollars spent.  And, yet, no one put in a decent sidewalk!



Another curiosity is why the lovely little creek that runs along Powell Rd has been obliterated from view.  I have worked in this area for greater than 5 years and never knew it existed.  

Why, in urban design, would you hide away something so pretty?  Instead, this would make an ideal pocket park, something Nashville is deficient in.




One then strongly questions the argument that we do not need alternative modes of transportation because these alternatives are not being used…

They are not being used because they were not designed to be used by pedestrians…the very people who are supposed to be utilizing them.