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Sunday, February 1, 2015

II - Can the Culture of Driving Change in Nashville?


If you haven't read part I - Please go back and read it now.


Many of you know that I enrolled in the Citizen's Police Academy this past fall to assess what the police are doing to keep pedestrians safe.  This situation of the dad and his son I wrote about yesterday really bothered me.  I ended up calling the Non-Emergency Police line to see what could be done.  I had a good identifier with the license plate and a great photo of the back of the car.  

Although the Nashville Police Department seems pretty amazing in many ways - I did not get the sense that they really notice or advocate for pedestrians.  Nor ticket.

So, when I called the Non-Emergency line, I wasn't entirely surprised by the response.  After describing that I saw a car make a left turn into a crosswalk where 2 walkers (1 being a child) stood, the police man said that 'if there was a sidewalk available, the family should have been walking on it rather than in the middle of the street'.    

To use one of my husband's favorite phrases:  
we were having a failure to communicate.  

So, I clarified that the family was not in the middle of the road per-se but rather in a crosswalk.  Then, he said that 'the driver must not have seen them - maybe he was on his phone or distracted - this is the case with many drivers today'.  

Ok, equally - not very reassuring.  It seemed that our conversation was a back and forth - me trying to explain that I felt the driver was in the wrong and the police man trying to say the pedestrians should have known better.  


For over a year, I have been advocating for a cultural (and legal) shift here in Nashville when it comes to pedestrians.  This story exemplifies my primary concern - that the private car physically dominates the roads in Nashville.  A person on foot is deemed one that should be defensive and deferential to cars - essentially a 2nd class citizen.    

Since a pedestrian is vulnerable compared to an individual in a heavy and powerful car - shouldn't it be the other way around?Other cities have created laws to protect their citizens on foot.  The crosswalk laws in California require drivers to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the road in a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.  People know and respect these laws because they are enforced.  When I moved to LA in 1997, I was told quickly that the pedestrian was king & if I didn't obey the law, I would receive a ticket.  The cops were aggressive in ticketing any car that did not come to a full stop, and remain that way, until the pedestrian left the intersection.  This aggressive protection of pedestrians created a culture where drivers acquiesced entirely to a walker in the road.  There was no sense, as a walker, that a car was pushing me to hurry up and get out of the road.  I never saw or felt sweated.  It was glorious, safe and encouraged walking.


I'd love to know what the comparable law is here and if it is ever enforced.  

My point in calling the Non-Emergency Police line was to see what kind of response I would get.  I am sure if I called reporting something more heinous - it would have ended in some sort of response.  Instead, I was told that if the police didn't see it - there really was nothing to be done (despite having an image of the plates and the back of the car).  

I was disappointed in the assumptions from the police - he was quick to alter my description into one where the pedestrians (a dad and his son) were in the wrong and then shrugged it off as 'people are distracted when driving these days'.




  1. Check out - It's not a particularly encouraging read if you're a regular pedestrian.

  2. Thank you for sending this in! The link that works best is: -> then go to pedestrian law near the bottom

  3. Here is the wording: 'vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time the signal is exhibited;