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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mayoral & Council Candidates: Please Advocate for Consistency When It Comes to Nashville's Pedestrian Infrastructure

Green Hills is an example of a neighborhood that doesn't see the forest for the trees.  It is like a fiefdom where each individual business has its own parking lot and its own tiny patch of neglected sidewalk.  It lacks big picture design and its sidewalk network reflects it.  As anyone who has attempted walking it, as you bump along the too-numerous-to count curb cuts and broken patches, you can clearly see that there is nothing to see.   This is not a pedestrian paradise. 

When we hosted the Mayoral Candidate Coffee on Walkability one thing stood out to me as possibly an error in thought. The quote was:  we need to take each sidewalk project individually.  Meaning, Nashville could continue to perpetuate a crazy quilt pattern for its sidewalk network rather than a cohesive look and feel.  

 I would argue that we need cohesiveness.  The plan should be set with only minor adjustments made on a case-by-case need.  We need to start with the big roads.  Walkers need to put on their shoes, head out for their errands, knowing what to expect.  Out-of-towners need to have a visual brand, if you will, when they think about Nashville.  Part of that brand could be our knock-out sidewalks.  These sidewalks could be omnipresent and uniform with the perfect green buffer and trees providing shade coverage.  This, my friends, would be ideal.

Nicely, we have a plan already!  We just aren't doing it.  The Strategic Sidewalk Plan for Sidewalks & Bikeways was originally created in 2003 and then updated in 2008.  This plan clearly describes our planned sidewalk infrastructure to have a substantial green buffer on all new sidewalks.  Additionally, adequate sidewalk widths are described for each type of traffic pattern to accommodate ADA needs and pedestrian flow.  

Green Hills a very solid example of a sidewalk grid that doesn't work well.  Each component of the sidewalk grid is beholden to the individual business and does not then communicate well with the whole.  There is no overall 'brand' here.  And, it shows.  The sidewalks are dead sidewalks.  You rarely see a walker here even though it is actually faster to walk here than drive (I challenge you to try this as the distance in GH is very small).  In talking with friends, many say they avoid Green Hills like the plague.  The traffic is not worth it.  These businesses are also missing out on the random stop-ins that occur when you are, for example, walking home and decide to take a different route.  Many shops in Green Hills are exactly this kind of store - stores where impulse buys could make a big difference.  The barriers to customers popping in are much lower when you just have to move your feet rather than drive, park, get out of car, etc.  


Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.

If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact

We also have Nashville Needs Sidewalk Bibs - let people know this is important to you!

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