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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Walking Vacations - in Nashville?

A friend recently told me about a woman who, every year, spends the summer in Montreal - just so she could walk!  This woman is a Nashvillian and misses walking so much she carves out time & arranges to 'live' in a city where she can spend her days on foot. 

Truly, this is my dream for Nashville.  Why couldn't this be a walkers paradise?


Nashville does have a significant amount of change ahead if we are to make it a walking destination.  But, if the intention is there - it would be to great benefit.  'Great streets support city businesses' according to the Urban Street Design Guide.  Frommer's remarks that, 'Cities best reveal themselves on foot' 

There are excellent model cities we could look to.  'Montréal is one of North America’s most pedestrian-friendly locales. There’s much to see in the concentrated districts' again from Frommer's. The city’s layout is mostly straightforward and simple to navigate, and the extensive Métro system gets you to and from neighborhoods with ease.

Wouldn't this be lovely & good for business, Nashville?


Who really wants to go on vacation only to be stuck, kind of lost, in a rental car driving from place to place, looking for parking? 

Don't we spend enough time in our cars daily commuting and running errands?  Do you really want to repeat this on vacation???

A quick google search for Walking Districts leads to this question from 2004:

When I visit Nashville for 2 days in April, I would like to find an area downtown on Sunday where I could just park the car just once, walk around and get a taste of Nashville and then have some good choices in the area to get a delicious TASTE of Nashville. Any suggestions?

Tellingly, there are no responses.  In Nashville, in 2004, there may have literally been no way to answer.


Going on vacation to a place where you can walk EVERYWHERE is a luxurious & unique way to see the city plus get your exercise.  It also allows for a certain amount of serendipity - on foot, you have the time, to see & experience unplanned for shops, restaurants and people watching on the way to your destination.


Needless to say - Nashville doesn't currently make the grade to qualify as a place to go for a Walking Vacation.  We are not a 'Classic Journey' kind of place.  We only have sidewalks on less than 1/2 of our roadways (limited to the Urban Service District) & only only 1 side of the street! We are just starting to have concentrated districts of interest.


But, we could become a Walking Vacation destination with better walking amenities!  What could be better after a big southern meal or after sitting for a bit to enjoy music?


Urban Street Design Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Walk Eat Repeat…In Nashville?

Ideally, you would go out for dinner or brunch in Nashville and then stroll home.  The weather here would certainly allow for this three quarters of the year at worst.  Currently, there are localized pockets of walkability in Nashville - the Gulch, 5 points, a couple blocks in 12th south,  a 2 block long stretch of Hillsboro Village.  Sylvan Park is working on it.  

Eventually, Shade Parade Nashville and The Sidewalk Foundation's goal is to not just have pockets of walkability but true connectivity so that one can stroll to the local bistro and stroll back home afterwards from all points.  

The Sidewalk Foundation has submitted its paperwork for non-profit status.  The goal is to build high quality well designed sidewalks. This will change Nashville from a relatively unfriendly pedestrian city into having clearly designated Walking Districts that are lovely - places where you can really stretch your legs, see and be seen.  

In preparation for this fundraising, I would like to launch a Kickstarter campaign.  If you would like to aid in this - if you special skills or can volunteer some time - I am looking to create a team to make a great video over the winter months.

A bite-by-bite overview of a recent food tour by Walk Eat Nashville.

The "its" just keep coming.
Saturday afternoon and night, food lovers from across town and points way beyond will congregate for two sold-out walking tours hosted by Bon Appétit magazine's droll restaurant editor, Andrew Knowlton, and co-hosted by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.
Knowlton is no opportunistic carpetbagger, though. He grew up in Atlanta, suffered both brimstone and Nashville's summer heat at David Lipscomb basketball camps and even ate at a certain meat-and-three when ol' Jack Arnold was still carving up the roast beef.
More than that, Knowlton has come to know and appreciate our culinary landscape better than many outsiders and has been generous with the praise along the way. Using his magazine's vaunted pulpit, he toured Nashville with Dan Auerbach of Nashville-based rock outfit the Black Keys and chef Tandy Wilson of City House and lauded our scene in 2012. That same year he added the Catbird Seat at No. 5 to his list of best new restaurants, and in 2013, Rolf & Daughters made the cut at No. 3.
"Back to back, that says something," Knowlton acknowledges, recognizing that the fawning boon of Southern food has been spreading from city to city and that now seems to be Nashville's time.
So it stood to reason to add Music City to Bon Appétit's list of GrubCrawl locations to this year's itinerary. While Nashville joins New York, San Francisco and Park City, Utah, this year, we have the distinction of selling out the fastest since the crawl began three years ago. That's 240 tickets at $149 a pop in 48 hours.
"We wanted to include cities that people don't immediately think of. I've been pushing to go down South," says the writer, who also counts Springwater as one of his favorite stops, which is high cotton in my book. (Note: Springwater will not be on this tour.)
"For walking tours, we pick very carefully and really try to get people away from large hotel settings, where you're elbowing each other for the last bite of bad tuna," Knowlton says, adding that the participating restaurants take the tour seriously, so it's "not just deviled eggs at one place." Not there's anything wrong with that in a Sunday supper kind of way.
A way to catch up
While the Grub Crawl carries national attention along for the stroll, it joins a growing trend of food-themed walking tours in Nashville.
Former Tennessean staffer Karen-Lee Ryan, who moved away but recently returned to the East Nashville neighborhood she came to love, just launched a walking-noshing tour intuitively called Walk Eat Nashville.
Focusing on, but not limited to, East Nashville, the scene she knows best, Ryan says her tours include about 40 percent to 65 percent locals. There's so much new growth that people who like to keep up with the food scene now use the tours as a way to just catch up.
On a tour last week, Jo Anne and Bob Zmud, visiting from Florida, said they try to make walking food tours part of all their trips, having enjoyed them in Seattle and Chicago. At the final stop of six destinations, they proclaimed Walk Eat Nashville the best yet.
Other tours, such as those by large operator Gray Line and upstart Nashville Food Adventures, employ vans to shuttle diners so that themed tours like barbecue or global foods are possible. Nashville native Karen Sevier, whose family honestly claims the title of "settler," brings deep historical knowledge to her Music City Bites and Sites tours of downtown.
It all points to another growth peg in Nashville's maturation as a culinary destination, though it's hard to imagine Gray Line or Bon Appétit leading any kind of food tourism tours were there not already the high notes as a music epicenter as well. But that's changing.
Knowlton, who brings a national perspective and a long-standing familiarity with Nashville to the table, certainly sees and appreciates the evolution.
"People come to Nashville and they don't realize the cool stuff. Are they going to places like Arnold's, and do they realize they are taking part in a special place not just in Nashville, but in the country?"
Reach Jim Myers at 615-259-8367 and on Twitter @ReadJimMyers.
My bite-by-bite overview of a recent Walk Eat Nashville tour:
» We meet: Five strangers and our happy, knowledgeable guide Karen-Lee Ryan meet in front of Margot in East Nashville. We don't go in but get a grounding on Margot McCormack, who broke ground in 5 Points with her fine dining destination. We then stroll to Margot's other outpost, Marché.
» Stop No. 1: Marche Artisan Foods: We are seated immediately and enjoy bites of tartine and a butternut squash and farro salad. A nice start.
» Stop No. 2: Five Points Pizza: A nice two-block stroll and we share slices of habanero-cream pizza with capicola and artichoke pizza with garlic and spinach. Owner Tanner Jacobs chats with us about their new pizza-by-the-slice window.
» Stop No. 3: Lockeland Table: After a leisurely five-block stroll we are greeted by partners Cara Graham and chef Hal Holden-Bache. Though the restaurant is not yet open, we enjoy a tasty tart Southern Girl cocktail (bourbon, mixed-berry and vinegar "shrub," and prosecco) at the bar, learn the history of the building and nosh on pork nachos and fresh-made mozzarella.
» Stop No. 4: Lynne Lorraine's: After more architectural viewing and tornadic history on the walk back toward Five Points, we enjoy a plastic shot glass of healthy-squeezed carrot-lemon-orange-kale-and-ginger juice from Lynne Lorraine's, which calls itself a juicery, which makes it fancy.
» Stop No. 5: Chocolate F/X (Shops on Fatherland): Nestled into this honeycomb of small shops, we are treated with truffles from owner Andrea Smith, who changed careers from special effects makeup in Atlanta to a life of cacao creations.
» Stop No. 6: High Garden Tea (Shops on Fatherland): At our final stop, we're offered a lesson from co-owner Leah Larabell, who gives a tour of this new apothecary-style tea room with herbs and garden-selected teas from around the world. We try an 11-ingredient yerba mate tea that's aromatic and well paired with desserts from Sweet 16th Bakery.
» We say goodbye: Full, but nicely sated, we leave comrades in food, with new (and renewed) appreciation for the excitement and depth of East Nashville food scene and history.
Nashville-based Food Tours
• Dabble Studios: Nashville Food Adventures
Contact: 615-678-8784 or
• Gray Line: Taste of Nashville Food Tour
Contact: 800-472-9546
• Music City Bites & Sites
Contact: 800-979-3370 (ticket line only)
• Walk Eat Nashville
Contact: 615-587-6138 or


Monday, November 24, 2014

Planetwalker - John Francis

Starting in 1971, after witnessing two oil tankers collide in the San Francisco Bay, John Francis decided to travel exclusively on foot (without petroleum based transport) for the next 22 years.  He finally broke his motorized vehicle fast after deciding that he could contribute more as an environmental activist by speaking out around the world.  

He is a great environmentalist and a great walker.

Many of you know that Nashville is not an easy town to walk around in.  There are numerous obstacles - a crazy patch work of urban planning and, frankly, lack of planning.  

The way to change this is to talk with your councilperson.  Write emails, write letters.  Have neighborhood walks to identify issues that limit your ability to get to where you want to go on foot.  And, follow John Francis, AKA The Planetwalker's lead --- WALK!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sidewalk Kits Available From The Sidewalk Foundation - Nashville?

I had an interesting conversation about sidewalks the other day with an prominent politician - his advice:  

Create a sidewalk kit.  

As far as I can tell - there is no kit on the market except for play.  When people want a sidewalk - they have the option of building their own out of a simple kit. 


A while back, I wrote about DIY sidewalks.  

They're not rocket science.  I wrote about DIY sidewalks, in part, because when I had an assessment of my house by Public Works I was frankly discouraged.


Of course, there are some areas in Nashville that are plagued with serious ditches - these may not be suitable for DIY or kit sidewalks - but many projects would be fairly simple.

Building your own sidewalk would accomplish 2 things. 

1. You would be adding one piece to the sidewalk network.  It would likely encourage your neighbors to do the same.  Consider talking to your neighbors and doing the whole block!  That would be amazing!

2. Public Works stated that gaps in an existing sidewalk network are held in highest regard.  Despite not officially being a part of the Sidewalk Priority Index (SPI) - gaps carry significant weight when a street is assessed.  


The Sidewalk Foundation has filed for non-profit status.  Paperwork is pending.  We are working on a Kickstarter Campaign and fundraising options.   The goal:  to build well designed high quality sidewalks in Nashville.  Sidewalk kits may be apart of this fundraising.  

Do you LOVE sidewalks and want more of them in Nashville?  I am looking for volunteers who would like to be apart of a Kickstarter video and someone experienced in creating a web site.  I'd love to gather a collection of DIY sidewalks in Nashville and a place to drop a pin so others can see them, too. Maybe we can get a group of volunteers who would help with the kits as advisors?  

  Is that you? 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

5K For Cleaner Air in Nashville - TODAY! Come out and hear me talk about clean air (and sidewalks!)

Shelby Park

I hope you all come out TODAY to move your body in support of clean air and better health for all.  

One in 12 people in the US have asthma and the numbers are increasing each year.  This equates to 25 million people living with this disease in the states.  If you can imagine a population equivalent to 3 NYC's - that is the amount of people who are living with asthma every day. 

More than half of people with asthma will have an asthma attack each year with children being at elevated risk.  According to the CDC, these attacks lead to 1.8 million emergency room visits and over 3000 deaths per year.

Asthma is increasing in industrialized counties - likely a combination of our cleanliness, on one hand, as we do not get the very serious, life threatening illness of childhood any longer - the 'hygiene hypothesis' - if you will -  in combination with the rise in particulate matter in the air - essentially air pollution.  Other factors, including a sedentary lifestyle and obesity fit into this picture, too.  

Smog and asthma are intricately linked and are a serious problem for Tennessee and Nashville.  The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2014" report revealed that the Nashville metro area ranks as the 29th most polluted in the nation for smog.  In regards to ozone, they gave us a grade of 'F'.   

Breathing smog is harmful to your lungs, and is a leading cause of respiratory problems including asthma.  Smog-induced asthma has outsized consequences for our most vulnerable community members, including children and the elderly.  In my pediatric allergy practice, I hear stories of families who literally keep their children inside during the summer months, particularly on air quality alert days, in order to try to stave off an asthma attack.  This is a very sad state of affairs.

Modern smog is mostly created by vehicular emissions and the burning of coal.  Out of curiosity - how many of you walk to complete your errands or to work regularly?  

As many of you know - Nashville is a car city and a significant proportion of our smog is due to this fact.  Our lack of walkability hinders us - but, with enough Nashvillians asking our politicians - we could have a significantly improved sidewalk network and get our citizens to park that car and walk for the benefit of all.  

We need to also address the burning of coal.  Coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution than any other industrial pollution source.  An F is an unacceptable grade.  Current smog rules were set long ago at a level universally recognized by the medical community to be insufficient for protecting the public’s health.   The good news is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing rules that would significantly strengthen protections against smog.  I support and urge you all to support the EPA setting the most protective standard that would cut all of our exposure to poor air quality by 95% compared to the current standard.  If not for you, do it for the friend or family member you have with asthma.


Link:  Noted that my writing on sidewalks was cut from this piece - but readers of Shade Parade Nashville & contributors to The Sidewalk Foundation will know that this is my main focus.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Speed Kills Pedestrians

The other day, I was standing in front of a young man in the airport making small talk with another passenger.  He was bragging about being pulled over by a police officer for going well over the speed limit.  He said he was 'definitely speeding' - going 120 mph down the highway.  All I could think was - he must not have children yet.  

The next day, my friend Kelly, sent this article written by Jay Walljasper which has so many great facts about the current state of walking in the US.  I found much of this information directly applicable to the concerns I have in Nashville.


If you care about sidewalks the going in Nashville is slow, slow, slower than slow. I was warned about this and am prepared for the long haul.  

When you care passionately about walkers and your goal is to bring high quality well designed sidewalks to Nashville it is pretty easy to get disheartened.  This month marks 1 year of Shade Parade Nashville.  I have written 215 posts about sidewalks and walkability, had multiple meetings, emailed more than I can count, hosted a public meeting regarding Bowling Av, volunteer at a farmer's market once a month, been interviewed for blogs and newspapers, then hosted the mayoral candidate coffee on walkability, won best community organizer from The Scene, and lastly held Pedestrian Paradise - an art bombing of a park in honor of Walk Nashville Month.  Phew!  I can honestly say I have devoted many many many hours to this goal.  It has been a whirlwind of fun…but I have NOT ONE NEW FOOT OF SIDEWALK FOR MY EFFORTS.  NOT A SINGLE ONE! 


One issue that has come up lately in conversations is an addition to my focus…maybe we should try to find a less expensive way to make it better to walk in Nashville.  Should I add a reduction of speed for drivers on key streets lacking sidewalks?  For example, if you are walking on the side of the road and the cars are whooshing by at 40 mph the level of comfort you have is certainly much less than if they were traveling 25mph and for very good reasons as you will read below.  The article Kelly sent had me thinking this may be a viable way to move towards my goal of making Nashville a walking city…

If streets are unmarked in Nashville, the speed limit is 30mph.  My street, which is literally 2 blocks long and lacks sidewalks is 30mph.  We have a parade of walkers going by at all times.  It is a very active neighborhood.  But why 30mph?  Does anyone really need to go 30mph on a street 2 blocks long?  

Bowling Av, the road my neighbor Trish Mixon and I have been campaigning to complete the sidewalk on, is 40 mph!  It runs straight through a residential neighborhood and has a very narrow cow path running along it bordered by ditches.  Does it really need to be 40? 

 According to Jay Walljasper, who recently wrote 'How to Restore Walking As A Way Of Life', pedestrians are killed:

  • 5 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 20 mph
  • 37-45 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 30 mph
  • 83-85 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 40 mph

If we are not, as a city, going to provide the infrastructure that distances pedestrians from vehicles, maybe we can lower speed limits on roads that lack sidewalks.  This way, we can at least provide a modicum of safety to our pedestrians.  The death rate jumps substantially with every 10mph increased in speed.  This provides very concrete and sobering proof that we, as a city, should consider reducing speeds on select streets.  

Do you agree?


From the same excellent article: 

Put Pedestrians First. “Every city should have a by-law of one sentence stating: “In this city, pedestrians come first,” declares Penalosa. “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point during the day, even if you are just walking from your parking space. So everyone has a stake in Vision Zero.”

I encourage each and every one of you to PAY ATTENTION to the pedestrians in your neighborhood.  We give 1/3 of our public land to vehicles.  What have we given to our pedestrians?  

Write to your Council person and call Public Works with all questions, concerns and praise.  

Most importantly, ask your favorite mayoral candidate if they are going to PUT PEDESTRIANS FIRST.


How to Restore Walking as a Way of Life
By Jay Walljasper on Oct 15, 2014 |

As the old saying goes, speed kills. Two landmark studies, one from the US and one from the UK, found that pedestrians are killed:

  • 5 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 20 mph
  • 37-45 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 30 mph
  • 83-85 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 40 mph.

In light of these findings, it’s scary to realize that traffic on many if not most American roads travels closer to 40 mph than 20 mph.

“If we could do one switch to make safer streets it would be to reduce car speeds to 20 mph,” says Bricker, “which would reduce pedestrian fatalities by 90 percent.”
Many experts think it’s not as simple as changing the speed limits. Charlie Zegeer, project manager at the University of North Carolina’s authoritative Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) says, “Research shows that lowering a speed limit doesn’t work to slow traffic– it’s the roadway design that affects the speed.”