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Monday, January 19, 2015

Nashville's Take on Sidewalk Closures Related to Development - Safety Pays???

Safety Pays

Met with representatives from Public Works in Nashville last week to discuss sidewalk closures related to development.  

As many walkers know in Nashville, the obstacles are numerous.  Add in sidewalk closures due to development and walking becomes even more challenging.

This life of these sidewalk closures tends to be long.  Many projects stretch on months to years.
As Shade Parade Nashville readers know, I am all for density.  I love that Nashville is becoming a proper city & that this is happening rapidly.  

But sights like these photographed above are too common.  There must be a better way…

The thing is, other cities have figured this one out already.  There is frankly no reason not to implement best practices created by cities one step ahead of us.  

To its credit, Nashville is changing and changing fast.  We are a very pro-development city but there needs to be some recognition of the rights of pedestrians when their routes can be impacted long term.  If it is safety 1st - closing the sidewalk, I would argue, is actually less safe as it leads to walkers taking a risk in the roadway rather then manage long detours.  

Again, temporary sidewalk closures related to building can last years on some of the larger projects - that, in and of itself, is a strong argument for a good written plan.  

 Basic Information on Sidewalk Closure Permits by Public Works: 

What is the Nashville's official policy on sidewalk closures due to development? 

- up to the discretion of Public Works - permit is based on a case-by-case review

What is the permit requirements?  

- Again - case by case review.  Preference is for covered sidewalks rather than closure of sidewalk (but as a walker - these protected/covered sidewalks seem much less the norm than the exception as most sidewalks around construction sites just stop/are closed)
- a permit can be taken out for 2 months at a time. Then, it can be reviewed for renewal every 2 months.  It is unclear how Public Works makes sure that these are renewed.   
- there is a $10 per day fee for sidewalk closure (one block in length, single side of the street) 

When the permit is filed, where do the fees go?

- the general fund (note:  not back into sidewalk funding)


Could there be a different way to support development and protect pedestrians?  Certainly, other cities have written policy on this issue.  Cities, such as New York City, have perpetual redevelopment & many pedestrians to protect.  There, rerouting is kept to a minimum.  In fact, NYC will infringe on private cars, by popping a protected pedestrian walkway out into the road, before making pedestrians cross the street with a closure then cross back.  


Nashville is growing so fast - I encourage you to notice construction sites and the conditions left to walkers.  

The truth is, with walkers, they are going to take the path of least resistance.  If a route suddenly stops, some will walk in the road or worse, to avoid having to do additional steps.  This creates a real safety concern. 

Shouldn't we, as a city & as a culture, put pedestrian safety 1st and have a written plan for sidewalk closures?  

What if covered sidewalks were the norm?  Or a walkway created by bumping out into the road if a covered sidewalk isn't possible like some of the images above?

And funding-wise, shouldn't we consider the monies raised from sidewalk closure permits to go back into sidewalks (ie: bolster the sidewalk in-lieu fee fund?) rather than the general fund?

If the goal is to make active transport more common in Nashville - these seem like fairly simple changes to consider. (coming soon)

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