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Friday, April 29, 2016

Nashville - Think out of the box when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure!

I'd like to bring some of this kind of creativity to sidewalks and crosswalks in Nashville!!!!

Thanks to Mike for sharing!

The first citizen-built and longest temporary bridge in New York City history, Citizen Bridge is a floating pedestrian bridge to reclaim the city’s waterways as public space. As a 1400-foot span from Brooklyn to Governor's Island, Citizen Bridge will offer participants an experience of the New York City harbor unlike any other. It is designed to create an intimate experience of being with the water, rather than seeing it from the shore, above from a bridge, or in transport by boat or ferry.
Why we need your backing  
Citizen Bridge is about the collective power of citizens to reshape their cities, from the waterline up. Normally, large pieces of infrastructure are instruments of political will; in this case, Citizen Bridge is an act of community goodwill. The bulk of the work on this project has been entirely volunteer-based with nearly 200 individuals—from neighborhood kids to writers and boat captains—across various backgrounds giving their expertise and time to get the project this far. We have come extraordinarily far in the design and regulatory development of the project. We are now at a point where we can't advance further without you.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Good News for Nashville!

Those for walkability in Nashville will like this!

Megan Barry plans upgrades at 15 dangerous Nashville intersections

Joey Garrison,

Looking to feed a city that has demanded a focus on neighborhoods, Mayor Megan Barry has rolled out a new program to systematically make street and sidewalk improvements at some of Nashville's most dangerous intersections.
Barry held a press conference Wednesday morning at Neely Bend Road and Cheyenne Boulevard in Madison — one of two intersections that will receive the first round of improvements — to announce an infrastructure program that will start by addressing 15 intersections with more to follow.
Public works officials say the work could cost around $500,000 to $1 million per intersection. It will to include road realignment, extended turn lanes, traffic signal upgrades, new sidewalks and pedestrian curb ramps, bike lanes and crosswalks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

System Overload...Please don't let this continue in Nashville.

Walkability infrastructure is nothing new...but Nashville never truly has invested in it.  Half of the current sidewalk budget goes to repairs.  The in-lieu fee that is collected when developers don't put in the sidewalk required has accumulated a shameful 1 million dollars over the last 15+ years, enough to create a single mile of new sidewalk.  Nashville cannot really move forward in this way.  

That being said, the mayor of Nashville could change this just like  President Lyndon Johnson did when he decided to invest in the Washington's Metro.

System Overload


“An example for the Nation” is how President Lyndon Johnson imagined Washington’s Metro, in a letter that he wrote fifty years ago to an official involved in planning it. And so it was. When the Metro opened, ten years later, in 1976, it was acclaimed as a farsighted fusion of design and utility, a system generations ahead of those in other cities. Today, the Metro is in such a state that fixing it may require shutting whole lines for months at a time. It’s yet again an example for the nation, but now it’s an example of how underinvestment and political dysfunction have left America with infrastructure that’s failing and often downright dangerous.

From the crumbling bridges of California to the overflowing sewage drains of Houston and the rusting railroad tracks in the Northeast Corridor, decaying infrastructure is all around us, and the consequences are so familiar that we barely notice them—like urban traffic congestion, slow-moving trains, and flights that are often disrupted, thanks to an outdated air-traffic-control system. The costs are significant, once you reckon wasted time, lost productivity, poor public-health outcomes, and increased carbon emissions. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor and the author of “Move,” a recent book on the subject, told me, “Infrastructure is such a dull word. But it’s really an issue that touches almost everything.”

Infrastructure was once at the heart of American public policy. Works such as the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Hoover Dam, and the Interstate Highway System transformed the economy. Today, we spend significantly less, as a share of G.D.P., on infrastructure than we did fifty years ago—less, even, than fifteen years ago. As the economist Larry Summers has pointed out, once you adjust for depreciation, the U.S. makes no net investment in public infrastructure. Yet polls show that infrastructure spending is popular with a majority of voters across the income spectrum. Historically, it enjoyed bipartisan support from politicians, too. If it’s so popular, why doesn’t it happen?

One clear reason is politics. While both parties remain rhetorically committed to infrastructure spending, in practice Republicans have been less willing to support it, especially when it goes toward things like public transit. This is partly because of the nature of the Republican base: public transit is hardly a priority for suburban and rural voters in the South and in much of the West. But ideology has played a key role as well. “The rise of modern conservatism, with its sense that government is the problem and its aversion to government spending, has created a Republican Party that’s much more skeptical of big infrastructure projects than it was,” Steven Erie, a professor of political science and an expert on development at U.C. San Diego, told me. There’s also a deeper, bureaucratic issue. Over the years, the process of getting infrastructure projects approved has become riddled with what political scientists call “veto points.” There are more environmental regulations and more requirements for community input. There are often multiple governing bodies for new projects, each of which has to give its approval. Many of these veto points were put in place for good reason. But they make it harder to undertake big projects. In 2010, Chris Christie was able to cancel a new tunnel under the Hudson River more or less single-handed, even though more than a billion dollars had already been spent on it.

Even more egregious than the lack of new investment is our failure to maintain existing infrastructure. You have to spend more on maintenance as infrastructure ages, but we’ve been spending slightly less than we once did. The results are easy to see. In 2013, the Federal Transit Administration estimated that there’s an eighty-six-billion-dollar backlog in deferred maintenance on the nation’s rail and bus lines. The American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives America’s over-all infrastructure a grade of D-plus, has said that we would need to spend $3.6 trillion by 2020 to bring it up to snuff.

Again, there are political reasons that maintenance gets scanted. It’s handled mainly by state and local communities, which, because many of them can’t run fiscal deficits, operate under budgetary pressures. Term limits mean that a politician who cuts maintenance spending may not be around when things go wrong. There’s also what Erie calls the “edifice complex”: what politician doesn’t like opening something new and having a nice press op at the ribbon-cutting? But no one ever writes articles saying, “Region’s highways are still about as good as they were last year.”

It takes a crisis like the Metro’s to shock us out of our complacency. As Kanter puts it, “It’s only when things get bad that infrastructure issues get real public attention.” This is the heart of our problem: infrastructure policy has become a matter of lurching from crisis to crisis, solving problems after the fact rather than preventing them from happening. As Erie says, “We’ve turned into short-term-fix addicts.” The U.S. needs to approach infrastructure the way it does national defense: come up with a long-term strategy, make sure it gets the money it needs, and hold the government accountable for making that strategy work. Infrastructure is the ultimate public good. It would be nice if ours was actually good for the public. ♦

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Anti-Biking, Anti-Sidewalk Bill Defeated by Legislators and Community Groups - Nashville!

This is great news for Nashville and Tennessee!

For immediate release

Anti-Biking, Anti-Sidewalk Bill Defeated by Legislators and Community Groups

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A restrictive state bill prohibiting the use of gas tax revenues for bike lanes and sidewalks has been defeated thanks to a coalition of Tennessee legislators and community groups, including Walk Bike Nashville and Bike Walk Tennessee. The bill, HB 1650-SB 1716, was widely denounced by proponents of active transportation across Tennessee. It would have prevented the use of fuel taxes by the state or local governments for any bike lanes, trails or sidewalks.

Davidson County Senator Steven Dickerson and Representative 
Bill Beck both voted against the bill. Other local legislators indicated opposition but the bill never advanced for a vote before the full House or Senate. Many municipal leaders, including Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville, stood alongside community groups and public health organizations to support bicycle, greenway and pedestrian funding.

According to Josh Palmer, board president of Walk Bike Nashville, “Legislation like this would set back efforts in Nashville and Davidson counties and across Tennessee to promote walking, biking and healthier communities. In Nashville, we are proud to be a Bike Friendly City and look forward to more improvements in our bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure under Mayor Barry.”
Metro Nashville is currently updating its long-term Strategic Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways in preparation for future improvements. Walk Bike Nashville’s Executive Director, Nora Kern, is on the steering committee for the strategic plan and stated, “Defeating this legislation is a great start to our public efforts to improve conditions in Nashville and Davidson County for walking and biking.”

While the bill was defeated before reaching a full vote by the house or senate, the restriction on bicycle and pedestrian funding may be reintroduced in the state gas tax bill in 2017. “We are encouraged by the broad coalition that stood up against this bill,” said Nora Kern, “but we plan to continue working with legislators and other community groups to prevent a similar measure next year.”

Monday, April 11, 2016

Primer on Sidewalk Etiquette - top 10 rules

Primer on Sidewalk Etiquette

Nashvillians are lovely people known for their niceness, quirky good looks and southern charm.  That being said, they fall a little deficient when it comes to sidewalk etiquette.  Not to be blamed - the culture has not historically been one of active transport of the pedestrian nature.  This, of course, can be blamed on our crazy-quilt of erratic sidewalk infrastructure, some connected, most not.  

So, as Spring has sprung and people are feeling excited to get back outside again, I ask you to consider a few basic sidewalk rules:

1. Use your peripheral vision
---Don't only rely on what you see directly ahead of you.  Use your peripheral vision to identify others and to keep the flow on the sidewalk moving

2. No large unexpected movements.  I know, not fun, but if you have ever been hit in the face when someone suddenly spreads their arms wide, you will know that this kind of movement is not a good idea. 

3. Equally, don't stop short.  

4. No large objects in the middle of the sidewalk - move it off to the side.  Similar rules apply in the grocery store.  And, crosswalks.

5. Practise good posture

6. Brief eye contact can be a thrill

7. People watch

Nashville, too!

8. If you are lucky enough to have a sidewalk, help keep it clean.  Sweep it off!

9. If there are a lot of walkers in your neighborhood, consider investing in a front porch or front walkway.  If you have a front porch, use it!  

10.  Advocate for your neighborhood to get better walkability

---consider adding to the map at link below your thoughts and opinions about the state of walkability where you know it best.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Your Health as an Act of Community Service? If you are not inspired by this, I feel for you...

By far, one of the most inspiring and heartwarming article I have read in along time about walking...simply, walking, and the benefits that could come by committing to it.  

Thanks TM for sending my way!

Walking Together for Health and Spirit

In early 2013, the Rev. Theresa S. Thames stumbled upon a Facebook page titled “GirlTrek: Healthy Black Women and Girls.”
“It saved my life,” she said.
Thames, then 33, was dangerously overweight and fighting depression. She sent the site her contact information and received an email from Vanessa Garrison, co-founder of GirlTrek, an organization that inspires black women to change their lives and communities by walking. Garrison learned that Thames was a pastor and invited her to lead a prayer at an event in Washington commemorating the 100th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death.
“I was out there leading a prayer for this walking event in my 447-pound body and I felt like a fraud,” said Thames, who is the associate dean of religious life and the chapel at Princeton University. But she also found herself stirred by the spirit of the event.
“It wasn’t about looking good or weight loss or fitting into a certain type of clothing,” she recalled. “It wasn’t, ‘Hey, you fat person, you need to do this or you’re going to die.’ It was, ‘I love you and I want you to love yourself enough to invest in 30 minutes a day, to walk yourself to freedom like Harriet Tubman did.’ And that spoke deeply for me because my life work is showing up for other people, but I wasn’t showing up for myself.”
Thames completed the 100-minute walk that day. “My body was in pain,” she recalled. “But it felt good to be out there with other women. It was really encouraging because it was something I could do. So I committed to walking every day.”
She kept that promise. Over the past three years, she has lost more than 230 pounds. “I gained mental clarity and the resolve to take care of myself,” she said.
Thames is one of more than 58,000 women across the country who have joined GirlTrek’s movement and pledged to walk regularly in their neighborhoods and report their progress. There are tens of thousands of “solo trekkers” and 574 “trek teams” in more than 600 cities and towns. (Here is a map of coming treks.)

n the Forest Hill section of Jackson, Miss., for example, 15 to 20 women meet every weekday at 4:30 a.m. for a brisk walk. They call their team “Four Dark Thirty” (they meet before sunrise).
“It’s not a chore, it’s not exercise, it’s just going for a walk, and having a moment to reflect,” said Cynthia Thompson, an assistant director at Greater Bethlehem Temple Church, who is a volunteer city captain for GirlTrek in Jackson. “Some people in my church never had an in-depth conversation with each other until we started walking. It’s amazing the conversations that come up when you walk.”
A little west of Jackson, in Clinton, Miss., the Dynamic Divas of Clinton meet every day either before or after work. “It’s a lifeline for people,” said Kartessa Bell, an instructional coach at a public school and volunteer neighborhood captain. “Since they’ve been walking, one team member told me, she got off her depression medication. I’ve seen people growing more confident. One member went after a promotion at work.”
Each week, thousands of trekkers participate in “Superhero Saturday” walks. Groups of black women in bright blue T-shirts walking together have become regular features in hundreds of neighborhoods and parks.
The federal government’s guideline for adult physical activity recommends 30 minutes a day, five days a week. But there is a huge gap between guidelines and behavior. What makes GirlTrek so instructive is that it not only motivates people to be active on a significant scale, but that it does so with the statistically most sedentary subset of the population: black women, who have the highest obesity rates in the country. (GirlTrek focuses on them because their need is highest, but the organization welcomes anyone.)
“We’ve spent an enormous amount of money on research-based approaches to obesity prevention and treatment, and almost none of them have worked with black women,” says Gary G. Bennett, a professor at Duke University and a leading researcher on obesity. “One of the key predictors of positive treatment outcomes is really high levels of engagement. I’ve been doing work on obesity as it affects medically vulnerable populations for 15 years, and I don’t know of anything in the scientific community or any public health campaigns that have been able to produce and sustain engagement around physical activity for black women like GirlTrek does. Not even close.”

Bennett was so impressed that he joined GirlTrek’s board, as did Dr. Regina Benjamin, a former United States surgeon general. Together, they lead a committee focused on research and evaluation of GirlTrek’s impact on health.
GirlTrek grew out of the experiences of its two founders, Vanessa Garrison and Morgan Dixon, friends from college days, and began as a simple act of self-care and love. Garrison grew up in Seattle. When she was 5, her mother started using heroin; she was an addict for 15 years and spent eight years in prison. Garrison was reared by her grandmother and aunt and recalls a lot of emotional pain in the household.
“So much was happening negatively for the women who raised me: depression, despair, sadness and loneliness,” she said. “I felt a lot of guilt, but I wasn’t able to give back to them in any substantial way.” She began walking as “a very personal way of how you can heal from childhood traumas.”
Dixon grew up in Sacramento. Her parents came from Oklahoma. Her grandparents had been sharecroppers; one of her grandmothers had 11 children while the other had nine. “My maternal grandmother gave birth to one of her kids on an abandoned school bus,” she said. “My mother desegregated her high school in 1958. She experienced lots of trauma and she still wears that.”
These feelings — pain, fear and the emotional defenses they engender — get passed on, Dixon says. For black women, “our weight is a kind of layer; we are wearing protection.” When she began walking regularly, she found something was shifting inside. She became more aware of her body and the environment. “I experience less anxiety, feel more present, and am incredibly hopeful when I’m walking.”
After college, the two began successful careers. “We had good jobs and husbands, but it didn’t feel good because so many of the women we knew weren’t living the life we were living,” Dixon recalled. “We thought, ‘How do we start helping the women we know come along on this journey with us?’ And being overweight was the outward manifestation of what we knew to be deeper themes.”
In 2010, they got the idea for a 10-week walking challenge. They emailed 200 black women and asked them to forward the message. Six hundred responses came back from across the country. “At the end of 10 weeks, we weren’t prepared for what happened,” recalled Garrison. Stories flooded in. People said they were amazed they had been able to stick with it. “We heard: ‘This is changing my life. When are we going to do it again?’”
They began to wonder: Was there a need for a health movement for black women, led by black women, grounded in their values and culture? They mined inspiration from black history, the poetry of Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez, hip-hop and gospel music. They created a Facebook page as a platform for sharing stories. “When we first Googled ‘healthy black women and girls,’ porno images came up,” Dixon recalled. They don’t any longer. Within two years, they had 100,000 followers and 12,000 trekkers who were reporting their walks every week and regularly posting pledges, testimonies and photos.
Walking is often underestimated. It may be the single best way to improve your overall health (although dietary changes are more important for losing weight). Regular walking has major benefits: among other things, it reduces risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression and dementia (pdf). And the benefits are shared. GirlTrek’s walkers love to bring their children along. This has special value: Obese adolescents become obese adults.
If a pill delivered the benefits of walking, people might pay thousands of dollars for it. So why don’t they walk more?
One problem is that it’s hard to inspire behavior by focusing on long-term goals. Behavioral scientists say it’s more effective to highlight near-term benefits embedded in an activity itself.
That’s what GirlTrek’s members do. They emphasize the rewards of taking time for yourself, getting outside and connecting with others in a nonjudgmental and noncompetitive environment. They don’t talk about hypertension or body mass index, but about feeling less anxious and having more energy. They don’t talk about looking good, but about looking alive: having the “GirlTrek glow.” They inspire women with images of courage and dignity. “They have lots of process motivators around black history — walking as Harriet Tubman did or retracing the steps at Selma — and they rapidly recycle them,” said Bennett.
They acknowledge the struggles and inequities that women face. “The mental act of saying every day, ‘I’m going to set aside time to do something that is healthy for myself even though I’m overwhelmed because I can’t pay my bills, my neighborhood is riddled with crime, and there are no sidewalks’ — that in itself is an act of resistance,” says Garrison.
They encourage women to think of their health as a community service; they celebrate trekkers when they reach goals and milestones. They encourage new traditions — a family walk after the Thanksgiving dinner, a ritual of walking the kids to school. And each month they begin a themed challenge. This month it’s “#Activism April.”
GirlTrek’s leaders and members aspire to build a national movement around women’s health. By 2018, they aim for a network of volunteers in the 60 American cities with the largest black populations, capable of rallying one million women to pledge to walk regularly. So GirlTrek is connecting with major black churches, historically black colleges and universities, black sororities, and civic organizations like the N.A.A.C.P., the Links and Jack and Jill. It has also formed partnerships with national organizations to train volunteers in nutrition and mental health and to serve as outdoor trip leadersgroup fitness instructors and policy advocates for walkability and street safety.
One million is an audacious goal, and I’ll be following up to see how it goes. But it’s striking to consider how much change GirlTrek has already put in motion — especially given that it has a full-time staff of six and a budget of $725,000. “Innovation doesn’t require a lot of money,” says Garrison. “It requires a lot of passion. And we have that.”
For Thames, her weight loss has been just the beginning. “You can lose the physical weight and you’re still carrying around the mental stuff,” she said. “There are moments when I see a booth in a restaurant and I’m still nervous if I can fit.”
“Now I’m doing work on defining myself and my relationships with others,” she added. “This body renders me vulnerable in a way that I didn’t consider before. When you’re in a ‘normal’ size body, there’s all this sexuality and fashion and consumerism that gets put on it. There are a lot of layers of perfectionism that get added to this body that I’m in now.”
And there are new pleasures. “I went out to Colorado with GirlTrek and we hiked up a mountain,” she said. “Being able to do that was overwhelming. Even thinking about it now I get chills. And I think: what a difference this would have made for my mother or grandmother, if they had gone walking with others in superhero blue.”


Monday, April 4, 2016

Developers in Nashville Refuse to Pay the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee?

Nashville is!  Recently, I heard that cities essentially rebuild every 50-60 years.  There is no doubt we are doing this now.  

We also did this after WWII when rapid development lead to sprawl...we expanded quickly past the 440 loop in a rolling and expansive manner.  At that time, the car was king so sidewalks were believed to be not needed & therefore not built.  

Now, the cyclic tide of desire has again shifted.  The car has lost its shine and the young (and more and more, the old - AARP is a big supporter of Complete Streets!) want to live in walkable dense cities.  As the years since the rapid growth after WWII passed, we kept kicking the can of sidewalk construction down the road year after year.  Now, we are left with the huge project of retrofitting sidewalks into well established neighborhoods.  

The complaint that sidewalks are very expensive is a big one making delay a notably poor decision.   I would argue that now is the time to capitalize on the rapid growth and desire to live in beautiful and fun Nashville by ridding ourselves of a little known loophole:  The In-Lieu Fee that allows developers to pay a very small fee rather than build the sidewalk required when creating density.  


'If you wonder just how much construction is going on in Nashville, here’s a dollar figure: The city is on pace for $3.7 billion in new homes, high rises, and hotels this year.

That’s based on one way to measure growth — through the building permits approved by the Metro Codes department. Just before the recession, they topped out at $1.8 billion in value.

Last year was 33 percent above that.

And Codes is working this year on $3.7 billion in projects — another 50 percent jump in just one year, Codes Director Terry Cobb said in his recent budget hearing', per a report by Tony Gonzalez for NPR this morning entitled Nashville Keeps Obliterating Records for Construction Projects (link below).


Regrettably, the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee charges 8% of the cost of sidewalk production.  So, you can pay and install a sidewalk (100% of cost plus the work entailed) or pay 8%.  Is crystal clear that it is cheaper and easier to pay the Fee rather than build the sidewalk.

A shameful fact is that the fee has been around for 15 years and raised just under 1 million dollars (or the equivalent of 1 mile of sidewalk).  We are literally subsidizing the redevelopment of Nashville to NOT include sidewalks.  

We have made that mistake once and we are now, inexplicably, doing it again.  Doing it at a time when walkable cities are 'the thing' and the rate of outside development is unprecedented...  


On the flip side, every 6th city in the world is shrinking ( see link below).   Nashville does NOT have this problem.  

A generous gift to the city, by the development community, would be to put in the sidewalk and refuse to pay the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee.  If we can rally, as citizens, to ask developers for this...I think we could make quick progress.  Better yet, if Mayor Barry would create an executive order to eliminate the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee - that would allow for the rapid knitting together of the many, sometimes huge, gaps in our sidewalk infrastructure.  


Friday, April 1, 2016

Try Transit Day - April 9th, 2016

Mark your calendars for Try Transit Day on April 9th, 2016 hosted by Councilmembers Angie Henderson & Russ Pulley.  Meet at the Transit Shelter on Hillsboro  Rd across from the mall (Hillsboro High stop) for a ride to Nashville's Public Library Main Branch.  Catch the puppet show or just explore downtown.