Walking in many areas of Nashville is frankly pretty dull. There is not much to look at as a rule. The scale and lighting are all wrong for pedestrians in most parts of town including are biggest shopping area which are clearly designed for vehicular traffic only. Houses are set way back from the road. Landscaping is made for privacy rather than to pleasure those walking by. Public art is not commonplace.
It is also pretty dangerous if you are on foot - 15th most dangerous city in America for walkers (fitting of an 'It City'???). Walking in Nashville is pretty dull except for the moments of terror when you realize the vehicle heading directly towards you has not seen you!
Outside of the urban core, the set up is suburban: narrow roads without sidewalks. Houses set far back off the road with landscaping that literally gives a walker no place to be.
In addition, the blocks in Nashville are HUGE. In fact, they are 'super-blocks'. Strangely, these super-blocks don't even line up appropriately into a grid but are just off-set enough to make for awkward intersections. Add in the numerous gated communities and cul-de-sac streets and you see how walking, one of our most basic rights, becomes a serious challenge.
These super-blocks, gated communities, non-aligned intersections, landscaping practices and cul-de-sac streets make getting from point A to going B on foot really hard. If, as the crow flies, you need to walk a mile - with this type of patchwork city planning - you may end up walking significantly longer and risk significant bodily harm.
Ask a Nashvillian if they let their children or elderly parents walk and you will get the real dirt on the quality of our pedestrian infrastructure.
Why so many barriers to walking in Nashville?
Why don't we work towards fixing these problems right now?
In addition to more public art & use of proper scale/lighting to make walking more interesting (and safe), I ask you to consider developing these super-block interiors.
The super-block interiors could have Greenway style paths to allow for pedestrians and bikes to cut through. This would allow people engaged in active transport to not be subjected to our current narrow and dangerous road conditions.
I would also love to see the city parks become centers in each neighborhood by allowing some development to be centered around them (this means walking developments NOT parking lot developments!). I am not proposing big development that would limit the ability of peopel to live near parks but the kind of small business development that often exists in prior houses described in more detail below.
The development around public parks would lead to 'chunking' of activities - walk to the park wih the kids, grab a coffee on the way and pick up that lemon you are missing to make dinner. Bump into a friend. Why not get the paper while you are at it? Seems like a win-win idea.
I would argue that now is the time to think of the greater civic good.
I heard a story recently about Chesterfield and a single neighbor who fought the planned sidewalk - essentially doubling the cost of the project. Why do this? Sadly, greed is the only explanation I can come up with.
The fact is: there is a Sidewalk Plan for Nashville.
All streets will be sidewalked eventually.
(So, one big important warning: do not plant in the right-of-way unless you understand that it is temporary as this is where the sidewalks will go).
And, if the interiors of super-blocks are developed with Greenway style paths - allow it. Don't be afraid and come up with numerous reasons why you don't want it. You likely will benefit from it. The city, as a whole, will benefit from it.
We have some great example already of development around public parks. I think this idea is one reason 12th South is so popular and animated. Sevier Park is a solid base and there are plenty of things to do right around it. For example, having Las Paletas right across the street is genius.
Another very strong and emerging example is Richland Park with its public library, farmer's market and the develeopments on Charlotte directly across the street such as Headquarters Coffee.
Let's not fight progress…Let's instead make a great plan that allows walkers to finally move easily, comfortably and safely in Nashville.
thesidewalkfoundation.org (coming soon) - info, data, map, donate
Nashville Public Works:
Submit your comments and questions via phone at (615) 862-8750 or through the use of the on-line customer service desk.