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Friday, October 6, 2017

Walk Month Nashville - 2017! Walking District Tour, October 14th, 2p

Walk Month Nashville - Events via WBN

Walk Bike Nashville has an excellent line up for Walk Month Nashville.  I'll be leading a Walking District Tour October 14th from 2p-3p

Meet in front of Jeni's Ice Cream in Hillsboro Village
on 21st Av S).

Hope you will join me!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Why Media Reporting Matters When it Comes to Walkability

Link to article

Link to Nashville Pedestrian Death Registry

In Nashville, we have a pedestrian killed every 21 days.

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Media Coverage That Blames Pedestrians for Getting Struck

When a driver struck a 14-year-old girl in a crosswalk outside her Philadelphia-area high school last week, the local media pounced. Headlines highlighted police accounts that said the victim, Kelly Williams, was using FaceTime on her phone at the time of the crash.
Here’s how the local CBS affiliate led its story:
A 14-year-old girl was injured Wednesday afternoon in Abington when police say she walked right into the path of a passing car — because she was video chatting.
The implications were clear: Williams was at fault. She was irresponsible. No need to give any thought to how the driver’s actions contributed to the collision.

Local police went on to lecture people about the dangers of distraction while walking. “I just hope people will realize the dangers of being engrossed in your cellphone, or your tablet, or whatever you’re carrying, and not paying attention to what you’re doing,” said Abington Police Chief John Livingston.

A week later, Williams is still in the hospital recovering from severe injuries. And a very different account of what happened is emerging.

According to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the man who struck Williams, James H. Clark IV, 32, was driving 21 mph over the speed limit — 46 in a 25 mph zone. In addition, she was “half way across a marked crosswalk” at an unsignalized intersection when she was struck — entirely in the legal right-of-way.

The driver told police he was in a hurry, glanced at his watch, looked up and saw a flash, hitting Williams. He is being charged with “reckless endangerment” and assault, and law enforcement is belatedly sending a much better message.

“Distracted driving and speed are a deadly combination,” District Attorney Kevin Steele told the Inquirer. “Drivers owe it to the community and to our young people to exercise extra caution and pay special attention to their surroundings in and around our schools.”

Still, why was the original account so wrong? Rather than wait until all the facts were gathered, police and local TV stations chose to assign blame to a gravely injured child. Wagging your finger at kids for using FaceTime must make for good ratings.
Leonard Bonarek at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia says this kind of reporting is far too common when a driver hits a pedestrian:
The coverage of is unfortunately quite common in the media: implying that a 14-year-old who was walking exactly where she was supposed to be walking, in an area that most have been trained since before they can remember to believe is “safe,” was at fault for the tragedy. Many youth today don’t watch broadcast TV, and evening news viewership trends older every year, but treating this tragedy as a “kids these days” type of story does considerable disservice to our public discourse, while also causing additional pain to a family that must be suffering tremendously, and to a youth who may never fully recover from this incident.
More recommended reading today: The City Fix shares new research showing the productivity advantage of urban density, as well as how housing and transportation policy can ensure the benefits are broadly distributed. And the State Smart Transportation Initiative explains a new report that attempts to draw a clear distinction between the kind of congestion that helps cities and the kind that damages them.

How can you help?  Consider being a PACE Car in Walking Districts! 

I will have bumper stickers me at & I'll mail one to you.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Walking District Op-Ed!

Thanks to John Harkey who works tirelessly for better walking and better biking in Nashville...

How Nashville walking districts work

Recently, I needed to pick up my bike, which had been in the shop for repairs. It was 3 miles from my house to the bike shop so I decided to walk over.
As I walked out of Elmington Park I saw a new sign indicating I was entering a “Walking District.”
Walking district?
It is a new idea being implemented in three locations in Nashville including the Hillsboro West End Neighborhood, south and west of Vanderbilt University. The idea is to encourage walking by making it safer and more enjoyable in residential neighborhoods where sidewalks are few or where through-traffic is heavy.
The plan will introduce signage lowering speed limits to 20 mph on residential streets and 25 on collectors, from the current speed limit of 30 mph. Other traffic-calming features will be introduced, including stepped up enforcement, improved crosswalks at major intersections, educational flyers, educational sessions with neighbors and more.
So, what can you do to help implement this new idea?

Walk more 

If you live in or near the designated neighborhoods, or anywhere, walk more. Restaurants, theaters, grocery stores and a hardware store are all within walking distance for residents of this area, as is the city’s largest traffic destination, Vanderbilt University and Medical Center.
Your walking speed is typically 3 to 4 m.p.h., meaning a mile takes you 15 or 20 minutes to walk. Walking at the more vigorous 15-minute pace with a round trip of 2 miles gets you more than your minimum daily exercise requirement, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. So, you get most of your daily exercise without a trip to the gym and while going where you need to go anyway.

When driving, become a pace car 

When I first heard the concept of “pace car,” I scratched my head. Are we running a race?
No, you are establishing good driving norms. A pace car is one that does not exceed the speed limit, even if other cars stack up behind you. Most Americans view the speed limit as a minimum rather than a maximum.
The pace car, in contrast, observes the speed limit, helping establish the new standard and a new way of looking at speed limits. You can even stick a card in your back window advertising that you are a “Walking District Pace Car.”
Cars are becoming more of a nuisance than a solution to getting around town in the denser parts of the city and near large employers like Vanderbilt. The walking district recognizes this development and encourages people to get out of their car and try walking. It also recognizes how vehicle speed kills. Recent studies have found that a pedestrian hit by a car at 20 mph has a 5 percent chance of killing the pedestrian, while the risk at 40 mph is more than 80 percent.
The walking district idea was brought to Nashville by Dr. Stacy Dorris, a Vanderbilt physician whose medical practice includes getting people to walk more.  Dr. Dorris also has a blog, Shade Parade, which highlights the walking experience in Nashville and she has established the Sidewalk Foundation to help fund walking projects.
Jenny Cheng and Nora Liggett of Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association developed the concept, and, with the support of Metro Councilmember Burkley Allen, worked with Metro Public works to bring the idea to fruition. Metro Public Works is collaborating with the Metro Nashville Police to implement the program.
John Harkey is a “mostly retired” health sector researcher, consultant and publisher.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A right-of-way (ROW) is a right to make a way over a piece of land

Right-of-way also right-of-ways (1768)

  1: a legal right of passage over another person's ground.

From Wikipedia:  A right-of-way (ROW) is a right to make a way over a piece of land, usually to and from another piece of land. A right of way is a type of easement granted or reserved over the land for transportation purposes, this can be for a highway, public footpath, rail transport, canal, as well as electrical transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines.   A right-of-way can be used to build a bike trail. A right-of-way is reserved for the purposes of maintenance or expansion of existing services with the right-of-way. In the case of an easement, it may revert to its original owners if the facility is abandoned.

Below is a link to a page with links to Metro's interactive maps.  The first one on the list is the Parcel Viewer, which shows approximately the parcel lines for properties within Davidson County. 

Learn where your Right-of-Way is

My point being, where are the people of Nashville to walk if we keep obstructing our Right-of-Ways??? 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nashville Pedestrian Death Registry - Wayne Elam, DOD 3/28/2015

Wayne Elam

NPDR - Wayne Elam

Where my daddy was hit and killed, the city had 9 years of study that says what needed to happen at that exact intersection…and they were only doing rudimentary things – they never did the key and necessary things to improve safety. There have been numerous accidents and injuries at that intersection, my Daddy just happened to be the one body that left the earth as a result of the lack of safety at that intersection.

My Daddy was a military veteran…he literally spent time making sure that we were safer as a country. So for my Daddy to leave the earth under these circumstances – an unsafe intersection in the heart of Nashville – it’s just too much. Let me tell you, my greatest thought is that the street where my Daddy got killed, should not be named Garfield Street, but Wayne Elam Boulevard.

I agree.  The Nashville Pedestrian Registry is meant to go further.  Meant to delve into the lives of those lost while pedestrians in Nashville.  A simple walk can turn deadly if a city does not plan and produce safe and well crafted infrastructure.  These decisions affect the lives of EVERY citizen in this city.

Nashville Pedestrian Death Registry

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Non-ADA sidewalk structure - a 'good' example

Public Works Customer Service Request Form

Here is a good example of where a sidewalk in Nashville is not ADA compliant.  Imagine walking here with a stroller or a wheelchair.  You would have to enter the roadway to get by.

This is also a place where the right-of-way may be infringed upon.  The rock wall likely should have been set back a few feet to allow for a green buffer.

These are the kind of things that need to be reported to Public Works and the Council Person. 

The link above can be used to contact Public Works in Nashville.


PLEASE consider the right-of-way before building costly hardstructures and planting trees & bushes.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

16 Pedestrian deaths to date in Nasvhille - 16 too many. A few things you can do...

Just want to remind all Nashvillians that you can contact Public Works with questions in regards to walkability and the rules.  There has been a lot of energy around walkability lately - with sidewalk bill 493 (Link to Sidewalk Bill 2016-493) and the recently updated pedestrian law (Link to Pedestrian Bill 2017-740).

As we move forward in Nashville to improve our ability to simply take a walk, I want to caution you to understand where your right-of-way is and where you can build or plant.  When hardscapes and trees/bushes are in the public right-of-way, they infringe on the place where pedestrians are to be when there is not a sidewalk provided and they decrease our safety.

We have had 16 pedestrian deaths in Nashville this year (Nashville Pedestrian Death Registry).  Sixteen too many.  We all must do our part to create a safe space for our walkers.

***Link to an interactive map where you can understand where the right-of-way is on your property or on properties where you may walk:

***Link to Public Works - you can submit a request if there is a particular issue in you walking path:

If you know someone who has perished while on foot in Nashville, please contact us at:  Nashville Pedestrian Death Registry

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Another Piece on Wallking Districts!

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -            
An effort to end pedestrian fatalities is taking shape across the Metro area.

Walking districts aimed at slowing drivers down have popped up in three different neighborhoods.

It is part of a pilot program, and is a new concept for Nashville. For the next six months, police and public works will study traffic patterns before deciding whether to make the changes permanent.

Neighbors say the concept is great. But, many believe more needs to be done to get drivers to slow down.

“These streets have been historically race tracks,” said Cleveland Park resident Cory Ripmaster.
Ripmaster enjoys walking with his family around the neighborhood. For years, he complained about drivers going too fast.

“What they do is they get in our neighborhood and they see an open road, and they push the gas pedal down," explains Ripmaster.

Now, a sign right across the street from his home warns drivers to slow down.
Cleveland Park, Hillsboro-West End, and the Una neighborhoods all have these same signs. They are designated walking districts.

Within the districts, speed limits on local residential streets are reduced to 20 mph from 30 mph. On residential collector streets, the speed limit was lowered to 25 mph from 35.
Metro public works heard complaints from residents. They hope this pilot program will make drivers more aware of people walking in these areas -- many of which include school zones.
Metro police say they will patrol the areas, reminding drivers of the new speed limits at first. But over time they will transition to writing tickets, if drivers continue to speed through the walking districts.

The goal of this pilot program is part of what's called Vision Zero -- aimed at eliminating all traffic fatalities.

Before and after data will be compared to determine what impact reducing speed limits had in these walking districts.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Walking Districts are LIVE in Nashville!!!

Improving walkability in Nashville is a long term goal of mine.  Recently, I've had 2 major projects, Sidewalk Project #1 - Bowling Av and Walking Districts both get attention. 

Both projects that were started roughly 4 years ago.  I highlight this to show that working on improving infrastructure in a city takes a long time.  I also show this to question the length of time needed.  Projects, such as Walking Districts could be fast if our leadership had a platform where walkability was goal #1.  If funding reflected walkability as the highest priority, we could make serious progress fast!  Each year, sidewalk funding is but a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to need.  

Walking Districts are LIVE in Nashville!  3 neighborhoods have been chosen - West End/Hillsboro, Cleveland Park (East) and Una
(Antioch).  Speed limits are reduced to 20 mph on neighborhood streets and 25mph on collectors.

For the Hillsboro/West End neighborhood, the borders of the Walking District are: West End, Hillsboro and 440.

Consider becoming a pace car in these neighborhoods!  Don't speed, even if cars stack up behind you.


The concept of a Walking Districts is pretty straightforward.  Designed for local streets that are highly walked but have a low Sidewalk Priority Index (SPI) score.  With our current system of using the SPI, these areas would be last on the list of sidewalk creation.  And, maybe rightfully so.  The areas I am talking about are low volume in vehicular traffic neighborhoods and many have a park-like feel.  

The concept entails 3 things making it a quick, easy, and inexpensive fix.  The first is signage:  a sign announcing that you are entering a Walking District.  The second is a street decal (think of the bicycle decal you see on roadways but change it to a pedestrian).  The third is a speed limit reduction to 20mph.


Walking District 2017
Walking District 2016
Walking District 2015
Walking District 2015
Walking District 2014

Friday, July 21, 2017

Is 8th Avenue South a cut-through or is it a community?

I get my haircut on 8th Av South. I'm always struck by how it feels: a place to pass through. Quickly.

I only go there to visit a specific business & then move on.

There is little life on 8th. The sidewalks are uncomfortable - not a spot of shade to be found - directly next to busy, fast paced traffic. The blocks are ridiculously long. The curb appeal is zero. There are no people! Which means no one to pop into one of the shops. Just cars -whizzing by.

To me, in its current state, 8th Av is essentially a thoroughfare for cars heading to more distant neighborhoods.
It doesn't seem fair that those distant neighbors should deny this area's improvement just to keep a quick way home. I65 is so nearby.

I don't know what the answer is except having city leadership commit to walking and biking as a main mode of transportation.  With that viewpoint, the decision is easy to make.  You listen to the commuters but filter the final decide through what is best for ALL. 

I vote for 8thAv S being a community.  In its current state, 8th Av is not great.  There is not much life here.  But, it could be vibrant!  This reminds me of both the West End issue and the one in Green Hills.  Both communities are ok but could be great with proper infrastructure for both bikes and pedestrians. 

Development is going to occur.  The decision comes down to development with great infrastructure (bike lanes, walkways and public parks/green spaces) or without. 

Is 8th Avenue South a cut-through or is it a community? We vote community. #VibrantSafe8th

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Is 8th Avenue South a cut-through or is it a community? That question has become the center of a debate over how to change the road in Berry Hill.
It would be fair to call the Melrose Neighborhood a construction zone, for now. Several new apartments and restaurants will bring around 1,000 new people to the intersection on 8th Ave South and Craighead alone.
"It's a fast growing part of town and it's exciting to bring your residents in," said Broadstone 8South Spokesperson Justin Wilson.
Broadstone 8South is one of the complexes getting in on the action. But differentiating itself from the pack, it brings with it an alternative to hundreds of extra cars constantly on the road: dozens of custom bikes for residents to use.
"The easier you make it for people, the more apt they are to do it," Wilson said, talking about cycling. The complex has entrances both on 8th Ave and on Elliot Ave, which will send cyclists toward the 12 South neighborhood.
They hope they help cycle the neighborhood forward.
Right now, not even the Executive Director of Walk Bike Nashville will bike on 8th Ave South.
"I don't feel very safe biking here," admitted Walk Bike Nashville Director Nora Kern to NewsChannel 5, "I bike almost everywhere I go, but this part of town is really hard to get to safely by bicycle."
The city has ideas on the table that could make things better: more crosswalks, slower driving speeds and also a "road diet," changing 8th from four lanes to two plus a center turn lane to make room for bike paths and better sidewalks.
"The city's changing. And this street is changing no matter what. So doing nothing really isn't an option," Kern said.
The road diet is an option some business owners loudly protest, with large blue signs that read "Don't shut down 8th Ave" up and down the street. One sits in James Kopcsak's parking lot.
"I do not see enough bikers on 8th Avenue to compensate to narrow it to two lanes," said Kopcsak, the owner of Classic Modern.

He says he supports other ideas to make the area friendlier to walkers and bikers, but thinks the road diet is too far. He knows 8th is currently a common cut-through to Williamson County.
A recent TDOT study may surprise many who drive in the area. It shows that over the past 30 years, traffic counts on 8th in that neighborhood have remained relatively stagnant, compared with the exploding I-65 corridor nearby.
As the neighborhood changes, all eyes are on the future. Many agree the community is closely tied to what happens on the road.
"We're open and we're excited to see where this neighborhood goes," Wilson said from the Broadstone 8South. The first residents will move in this weekend. Studio apartments are offered starting at $1329.
One of two traffic studies are complete on 8th Ave South, with the results from the second expected in the fall. Click here for a link to the information from the first study

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Interesting Mishap: Sidewalk Bill 493 & an early error that made the news

From Council Member Freddie O'Connell:

Last week, I was contacted by a reporter for WSMV. She wanted to talk about a constituent's project (a new detached accessory dwelling unit--or DADU) that had triggered a requirement of the relatively recently passed Sidewalk bill #493. Here's the story. A dramatic example of an unintended consequence impacting a homeowner trying to improve her property.

Note particularly the comments of the contractor working on the project. "All this infrastructure will have to be dug up and replaced."

The most frustrating part? It didn't happen. Well, sort of. The new law did not apply in this case. For reasons yet to be determined, as part of an administrative error, a sidewalk requirement was added to the DADU that wasn't supposed to be there. We're still working with Codes and Public Works to figure out how this happened, but the bottom line is: the story was, effectively, a non-story.

There is intent here. I applaud the leadership of CM Henderson, who worked tirelessly for months, first in her role as Council's liaison to Nashville's WalkNBike
 but also as a champion of a better pedestrian environment. She worked hard with neighborhoods, developers, and other stakeholders like the Chamber of Commerce to ensure a large table was set and that multiple parties understood that we were going to need to establish some infrastructure cost sharing if we were ever going to develop the sidewalk network so many of our constituents have said time and time again that we need.

More and better sidewalks will happen by design. Might there be frustrating cases we didn't anticipate? There might. This wasn't one of them. Even better? Metro Planning is working on a new tool that should establish even greater clarity for anyone building or renovating.


The tool is now ready!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sidewalk Project #1 --- Bowling Av, Public Meeting July 26th, 2017

Trish Mixon and I have been advocating for a sidewalk on  Bowling Av from West End to Woodmont for almost 4 years. 

We have held a public meeting,
meet with numerous council people over the years, advocated with Public Works, had an landscape architectural firm draw plans, held an event called Pedestrian Paradise to highlight the need, made appeals to the PTO at West End Middle, sat every Saturday at a local Farmer's Market for a full summer, dabbled in fundraising (to help with moving of hardscapes) and completed a formal letter based survey of the 92 residents of Bowling Av. 

Needless to say, we are THRILLED to have Council Member Kathleen Murphy take this project on. 

This sidewalk is the key to walkability for this whole neighborhood - to allow walking to businesses on West End, for students to reach West End Middle, Elmington Park, and transit to mention just a few. 

Currently, our area could be considered a sidewalk desert - see map below - as we have little to no options. 

Bowling is marked 35mph but we all recognize it as a higher speed cut-through.  No one goes 35 & no one is expecting a pedestrian.  Here in lies the main issue.  Without a sidewalk, it is a major safety concern - many have stories of 'nearly being killed' trying to walk on Bowling. 

We can do better. 

There is an other Public Meeting scheduled for July 26th, 2017 to discuss.

Bowling Sidewalk Meeting

6:30 Wednesday, July 26th
West End Middle School Auditorium
6:30 Sign in and Welcome
6:30 Presentation by Public Works of the Bowling Ave. Sidewalk Preliminary Design
6:45 Questions/Discussion
Please share this meeting information with neighbors! I do not have a digital version of the sidewalk design yet so make sure to attend this important meeting and show your support for this sidewalk!  The new sidewalk will overlap with some existing but not up to standard sidewalk.  It will go to Woodlawn and is a great first step for Bowling.  Public Works has taken great care to avoid our trees and rock/brick walls.  This sidewalk is vital to making our neighborhoods more pedestrian friendly!
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns:  or 615-422-7109

Friday, July 14, 2017

Physical Activity Inequality Can Explain Obesity Differences...Is Nashville a hostile city towards walkers?

Sorry for the wholesale copy and paste but this offers a good prism to view Nashville.


Physical activity inequality can explain obesity differences

On average, people in the US take around the same number of steps daily as people in Mexico—about 4,700. But the US has a much higher obesity rate than Mexico—27.7 percent compared to 18.1 percent. Why?
The immediate and obvious answer is food culture, and that probably does play an important role. But a paper in Nature this week suggests something else we should be looking at: activity inequality. In the US, a small section of the population gets in lots of daily activity, dragging the average higher, but the majority of people get very little. Other countries, like Japan, are more equal: more people there tend to fall around the average.
Activity inequality is already part of the conversation about obesity. When we talk about problems like exercise deserts, we’re talking about how some groups of people live in situations where there aren’t many options for physical activity, leaving a portion of the population with below-average activity. A new look at global data, however, confirms that this is a vital way to analyze the problem: high activity inequality in a country means high obesity, much more reliably than low average-activity levels mean high obesity. And addressing this inequality specifically, rather than looking at average activity, could yield much greater results.

How much do people move? Hard to say

Without good evidence on physical activity, policy decisions have to be based on educated guesses and assumptions. But good data on physical activity is very difficult to get. You can ask people to report how much activity they’re getting, but self-reports are notoriously unreliable (almost everyone says they get more exercise than they do). You can give a whole bunch of research subjects wearables, but the data will be limited by how many wearables you hand out and who gets them.
The huge number of people now tracking their activity through various apps and wearables is a data goldmine for getting actual, solid numbers on physical activity worldwide. Computer scientist Tim Althoff and a team of researchers at Stanford used data from more than 700,000 users of smartphone activity-tracking app Argus, from 68 million days of activity tracking, to observe the activity patterns of people from around the world.
There are obviously some important gaps in this data. The researchers looked only at data from iPhone users and focused on countries with more than 1,000 Argus users. That meant a mix of 32 high-income countries (like the US and Japan) and 14 middle-income countries (like China and South Africa). No low-income countries were in the mix.
It also means that users overall were probably on the wealthy side. That’s especially the case for middle-income countries (where iPhones are more likely to be owned by only wealthier individuals) than high-income countries where they tend to be a bit more ubiquitous. And importantly, every single Argus user cared enough about their health to download a smartphone app that tracks their movements throughout the day. Those people might not be perfectly representative. But no data set is perfect, and fitness tracking data is a big jump up from self-reporting.

Hostile cities

So what leads to this activity inequality? The answer is definitely complicated, but this data set confirmed that the built environment is an important contributor. The researchers looked at the walkability of 69 cities in the US and found that people who lived in walkable cities—those with parks and shops within walkable distance, as well as short, walkable blocks—got more steps in on weekdays as well as weekends. Activity inequality in these cities is lower, and that includes both poorer and wealthier cities.
Gender also plays a role: there’s a walking gender gap, with men getting in more steps than women. And countries with higher activity inequality also have a bigger gender gap. As with everything else, the causes of this are likely to be hugely complex, but the built environment plays a role here too. Cities that are more walkable have a smaller gender gap.
Women and men have different responses to inactivity. Men who walk 10,000 steps a day have a lower rate of obesity (about 20 percent) than men who walk 1,000 steps a day (about 30 percent). Obviously. But for women, that curve is a lot steeper: from about 10 percent obesity at 10,000 steps a day, with a sudden upward rise at 5,000 steps a day or fewer. At 1,000 steps a day, women’s obesity levels have slightly overtaken men.
All of this is important because it pinpoints where effort could be invested to have the biggest public health impact. Improving the built environment should help to close the gender gap and reduce activity inequality overall, which in turn should have marked impacts on obesity levels.
In fact, the researchers used the data to predict what would happen if everyone got an extra 100 steps a day (increasing average activity), compared to what would happen if the least-active people got a big jump up with 500 extra steps. Focusing on average activity level would reduce obesity levels by about 2.3 percent, but reducing inequality would have a much bigger impact: approximately 8.3 percent.

Many of these findings confirm the results of other research done with less robust data. Obviously, more research will be needed, with other datasets that have different weaknesses, letting researchers slowly circle in on the truth over time. But these results point to a small but vital change in the way we should think about the problem.Unwalkable cities, activity inequality, and obesity are a tricky blend.