Walk, bike plan needs more specifics
Nashvillians can agree that our car traffic is terrible and getting worse.
We are also tired of hearing news of people killed while trying to get around on foot or bicycle. But we know that more than 60 percent of car trips in Nashville are under five miles and if there were more sidewalks, crosswalks and bikeways many of these trips could be done by foot or bicycle.
The city released on Jan. 9 the draft plan for sidewalks and bikeways, entitled “WalkNBike,” which seeks to address this problem. “WalkNBike” is a huge step in the right direction.
Including many of the latest design principles from across the country, it emphasizes the need to design safe streets for all users. It lays out a bicycle network for all ages and abilities, outlines a transparent prioritization method to help make the difficult decision of selecting new sidewalk locations and focuses on the potential for walking and biking to be practical and affordable ways to get around the city.
However, if “WalkNBike” is going to be funded and lead to action it needs to have much clearer goals and a transparent list of projects. Right now the plan lays out great principles and ideas, but it does not do enough to set the stage for action.
In the “Nashville Gear-Up 2020” report, prepared for the Mayor’s office by the Urban Land Institute, Gabe Klein emphasizes:
“All too often the best big plans fail to come to fruition because we don’t collaborate and establish shorter term vision, goals and measurable, time-based objectives that are communicated clearly so that citizens, business owners, and politicians can rally behind and act on the change.”
These clear, measurable and time-based goals are largely absent from WalkNBike. Furthermore, what sort of economic impact does the plan hope to achieve?
How many people is the city working to get walking and biking in the next five years?
How many miles of safe, all-ability bike lanes are we going to build by 2022? How many improved crosswalks will be installed?
Perhaps more importantly, the plan does not indicate when we should expect the project list that details the specific streets Public Works will start work on. Without knowing what projects will be included, it will be pretty hard to convince the Metro Council, let alone the general public, that the plan is worth $591 million.
The city will have to be creative to fund our transportation system, but to do so we need a transparent list of projects and clear vision of what we are hoping to achieve.
Now that we have seen the governor’s transportation proposal, which is almost entirely for cars, and the “nMotion” plan, which costs $6 billion, it is more important than ever to remember that walking and biking are the easiest and cheapest ways to move people around our city.
The WalkNBike plan has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of all Nashvillians. We need to make sure we get it right.
Nora Kern is executive director of Walk Bike Nashville.