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Monday, October 3, 2016

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces or Why Pedestrians Help Enrich Cities

One of my main goals is to encourage a culture of walking in Nashville.  This is important to me for a number of reasons but one is simply the joy of people watching.  People watching is a true pleasure:  the myriad of impressions, movements, interactions, looks.  The ballet occurring on the sidewalk is rich.  It is the stuff of life.      

Sadly, most of Nashville's sidewalks are rather empty.  The ballet is, in essence, a solo act.  This is, in part, due to poor quality or frankly missing pedestrian infrastructure.  We have the craziest of crazy quilt infrastructure in Nashville (see the photos below) and it is something I would love to see the mayor decide to change.  We certainly could have uniform, well-designed sidewalks if the mayor decided to take it on as a major city-wide improvement project.  

To walk, you have to be creative & brave in Nashville because the sidewalks appear, change, disappear, on repeat, ad nauseum.  There is literally no consistency in pedestrian infrastructure (see photos below). 

Nice tree-lining - will be a great buffer some day from noisy, fast paced traffic

Sidewalk so close to the houses.

Nicely set back from the road but why so narrow?


People watching is a known inspiration in creative endeavors, something Nashville is committed to.  Many artists talks about finding inspiration while walking.  This classic video (below) is really fun to watch & exemplifies the fun in watching people.   It speaks to one of the root reasons for being a pedestrian advocate:   it is fun to walk, be outside and people watch.

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces:  William H. Whyte

Nashville, Anytime Now You Can:
  • Decide to set UNIFORM well-designed standards for sidewalks with adequate green buffers and tree-lining 
  • Require sidewalks with any development that creates density
  • Put sidewalks around our schools

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