A few weeks ago, I was interviewed for The Tennessean. The print version had the sweet titled of 'Where The Sidewalk Begins' but the on-line version had a much more sinister title - 'Nashville's Lack of Sidewalks Sparks Angry Campaign' (link below). Thankfully, I had a number of people draw attention to the angry part and the author kindly removed it.
Passionate about sidewalks - yes. Angry - no. In general, I see Nashville's walkability problem as fixable. Fixable with strong leadership. Other cities (see San Antonio or Vancouver) have made huge changes just by electing a mayor with the goal of making walking highest priority.
But, there are a few things about walking Nashville that are incredibly frustrating and frankly dangerous. I thought I would point out 2 today.
My son's school is 2 miles away. We walk often. To do so, I have to walk on Woodlawn. Woodlawn is a bike route & has a thin white line creating a small shoulder about 1' wide. Not really wide enough for a pedestrian and certainly not wide enough for a stroller.
Rules of the road are that pedestrians walk AGAINST traffic. With such a narrow road, you can imagine that oncoming traffic sometimes has to wait to pass me in order to proceed. This almost always results in someone becoming impatient and either trying to pass the waiting car or honking loudly - another frustration but I will save this for another day.
Other than the feeling of utter vulnerability, the thing that is the most worrisome about walking here is the intersection of Compton and Woodlawn. Compton, a dreary cut through street invites a lot of traffic who travel at high speed. If they are heading south and turning west or right onto Woodlawn, drivers typically pull up hard and fast, angle their car towards the west (or right) look over their left shoulder briefly and go. Although not fully a slip lane, Compton functions as one.
The problem is: if a pedestrian is to walk against traffic - they are directly in the path of the driver.
Now, I do realize that drivers are not used to seeing pedestrians on Woodlawn. Frankly, it feels terrible to walk here - and, I am sure most in the neighborhood avoid it. In fact, I often hear comments like 'I saw you risking your life on Woodlawn'. That being said - it is a driver's job, just like a small child, to LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET!
A solution to this problem would be to create a space that requires the driver to come to a full stop & be alerted to pedestrians. Vanderbilt recently did this to great effect.
Stop bar distal to the sidewalk.
A little hard to see, but, if you are the driver - your stop bar is distal to the sidewalk! So, drivers pull right up to the bar without looking for pedestrians first. Essentially, that is what they are being directed to do.
This is in busy Hillsboro Village at Belcort and 21st. I called Public Works about this interestection and they said that the stop bar is supposed to be 5' proximal to the sidewalks - it was put in in error. That was about 1 month ago - still waiting for the fix. Once you are alerted to these - you will start to see them all around Nashville.