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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.  

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