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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 another 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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

3 ft rule now applies to drivers passing pedestrians just like for bicyclists in Nashville - a step in the right direction!!!

The pedestrian bill passed!  This revision is very exciting:  it acknowledges a lack of infrastructure, provides a legal place for walkers when there is no sidewalk (often the case in Nashville), creates a 3' rule for passing and adds that drivers are to slow and yield to walkers when they are in the roadway.

Just remember if a pedestrians destination is mid-block, there will be a time where the walker will either have to walk with traffic or jaywalk.  

Some typical view of roadways in Nashville in the urban service district

3 foot rule now applies to drivers passing pedestrians on Nashville roads

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro Council passed a bill Thursday night that gives pedestrians the right-of-way on certain roads.
The ordinance says pedestrians must walk on a sidewalk or shoulder if there is one available. If not, they can use up to three feet of the roadway.
If a driver wishes to pass the pedestrian, he must maintain a three-foot distance.
(Photo: WKRN)
Councilman Anthony Davis co-sponsored the bill and met News 2 on Litton Avenue in East Nashville to show us what the ordinance does.
“This stretch of Litton Avenue is a perfect example,” he said. “There’s no sidewalk, no shoulder and you’ve got a big ditch. So we have the right to walk in the road on the edge up to three feet.”
The pedestrian must walk in the direction of on-coming traffic and can’t walk in the middle of the road.
“We get a lot of kids walking on this road and cars will brush them off,” Davis told News 2. “Drivers expect the pedestrian to get in the ditch or get in the grass and that’s not the case. The pedestrian should have the right of way and the car should move three feet in the road.”
If the driver cannot pass safely, the vehicle must yield to the pedestrian.
Davis admits that enforcement could be an issue but he says it’s more about awareness and giving more rights to pedestrians.
“Enforcement is the biggest challenge but that’s really why we want to drive awareness with this,” he said.
If drivers are caught violating the ordinance, they could be found guilty of a misdemeanor charge and fined up to $50.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sidewalk Bill 493 is in EFFECT! Read all about it, Nashville!!!

This is a great article about Nashville's sidewalk issues & our new legislation (sidewalk bill 493) that went into effect 7/1/2017!  Cannot wait to see progress in our fast growing city. 

Plus, the lead photo is of me & my son, Henry from an old Tennesean article we did years ago about lack of sidewalks (credit given to Shade Parade but it is actually from the local paper).

Take a minute & look at where we are walking. This is what it's like in Nashville! My entire neighborhood is like this.  Not a sidewalk in site.  No one can walk safely to any local options - not to the park, the schools, Green Hills or Hillsboro Village.  Places all within 2 miles - a very walkable distance. 

This is why I've been so passionate about sidewalks. Most Nashvillians don't / won't walk in these  unsafe conditions. Our city is approaching 1M citizens - growing fast - now, is the time to change. 

Thank you to Angie Henderson!  Her work and commitment is just what Nashville needs. 


Nashville Is Finally Tackling Its Sidewalk Problem

Most Nashville streets don't have sidewalks. But new legislation is going to fill the gaps. Photo:  Shade parade

Nashville Is Finally Tackling Its Sidewalk Problem

Most Nashville streets don't have sidewalks. But new legislation is going to fill the gaps. Photo: Shade parade
Angie Henderson has been advocating for a more walkable Nashville for 17 years. Much of that time, the native Nashvillian and mother of two zeroed in on filling sidewalk gaps or finishing trail connections — a piece-by-piece approach to improving the pedestrian network. A couple of years ago, she realized that wasn’t going to be enough.

Only an estimated 37 percent (or 19 percent — calculations vary) of Nashville’s street network has sidewalks. Walking infrastructure is missing on about 1,900 miles of city streets.
Nashville City Councilwoman Angie Henderson and her family. Photo: Angie Henderson
Nashville City Council Member Angie Henderson and her family. Photo: Angie Henderson
“When you grow up in Nashville and you drive everywhere, that’s kind of your reality,” Henderson said. “As my children got older, it just became clear to me that we’re not going to move the needle much unless we change the [sidewalk] policy.”

So in 2015, Henderson decided to run for office on a safe streets platform. And she won.

One of her first moves as a Metro Council member was to push for a new sidewalk ordinance — a citywide policy to help fill gaps in the pedestrian network.

The legislation went into effect July 1. It requires developers of single family homes to construct sidewalks if the property is within the designated “urban area” of Nashville, if they build near a commercial center, or if the property abuts another property with sidewalks. If builders don’t comply they have to pay a fee — $178 per linear foot — which will go into a fund for sidewalk construction in targeted areas.

The sidewalk ordinance will also close loopholes that allowed commercial developers to avoid building sidewalks, Henderson said.
Over time, the process set in motion by the bill should complete the sidewalk grid in much of Nashville. The legislation dovetails with the city’s new general plan, which pinpointed key areas where sidewalk construction should be prioritized. The city estimates it will generate about $8 to $12 million annually for sidewalks.

When Henderson began talking to the planning department about a new sidewalk bill in February of 2016, the city was primed for the discussion. Nashville is growing fast, and many new arrivals hail from more walkable cities, according to Henderson.

“As people have moved here from other cities, it has really been helpful to the conversation.” she said. “Having people come from other communities and be like, ‘What the heck Nashville? What’s wrong with y’all?’ I think it’s really helped us build some momentum.”

But Henderson still wanted to tread carefully, so as not to anger builders who might oppose sidewalk mandates. She worked with a liaison at the local Chamber of Commerce to help mediate discussions with developers, and a number of meetings were held to get feedback from the construction industry and hear their concerns.

Some adjustments to the bill incorporated their feedback — for instance, the legislation is designed not to mandate building isolated “sidewalks to nowhere.” But ultimately, few major concessions had to be made. Thanks to tools like Walkscore, many builders already knew how much people value walkability. “There really was a groundswell around sidewalks, and I think the builders were keenly aware of that,” she said. “I think they get it.”
Thanks to Henderson’s careful consensus building, support for the bill was nearly unanimous by the time it came up for a vote. It passed with 37 sponsors in the 40-seat Nashville Metro Council.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hoping the 440 Greenway in Nashville Will Move Those on Foot and Bike This Fast!

In Some Places, Germany's Bike Autobahn Is Faster Than The Car Version

Germany is building Europe's biggest bicycle autobahn to connect 10 cities — and hopefully remove thousands of cars from German roads.
German highways, or autobahns, as they're known, are legendary for having no speed limit. But you can't go fast when you are stuck in traffic. One state in Germany is building an alternative for frustrated commuters. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson went to check it out.
SORAYA SARDHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: To get to this alternative, you have to trade your gas pedal for bike pedals. That's right. This new autobahn is for bicycles, not cars. But it's a bit of an obstacle course here in the city of Essen to get to what will be the longest bicycle highway in Europe. Parked cars often block designated cycling lanes, and drivers don't always stay on their side of the road. It isn't much better in the car-free shopping zone, where you have to weave to avoid pedestrians.
But with patience and perseverance, cyclists soon reach the autobahn designed exclusively for them. This highway that is 13 feet wide follows abandoned rail routes and other flat expanses in Germany's Rust Belt. A 6-and-a-half-foot-wide pedestrian path runs alongside but is separated by a grassy median to prevent people or their dogs from straying into the bicycle lane. Planners say this part of Germany is ideal for a bicycle highway because cities in the Rust Belt are very close together.
SIMONE RASKOB: (Speaking German).
NELSON: At a recent Berlin news conference, Essen Deputy Mayor Simone Raskob said people travelling to and from the neighboring city of Mulheim are already finding the bicycle autobahn faster than the car version.
RASKOB: (Speaking German).
NELSON: Raskob said bicycling on the path can be done year round, with municipal workers clearing snow and ice from the pavement during the winter months. At the moment, the bicycle highway is less than 8 miles long, and that's if you include the feeder paths. But planners say that by 2022, it will stretch 66 miles and connect 10 German cities, where then a million and a half people live within a mile of the planned route. And planners are betting that those with a commute of less than 12 miles to work will make the switch from cars to bicycles. One Essen commuter who has already traded in her daily drive is Heike Wollmann-Zintel.
NELSON: The 48-year-old says besides cutting down on travel time, the new bicycle highway offers another benefit, stress relief. She says when she's had a bad day at work, she just peddles the negative feelings away. There's even a rest stop of sorts - a cafe called an Radmosphere, which is a combination of the German words for bicycle and atmosphere. It's there that I meet Frank Joneit of the regional association Ruhr, which oversees the bicycle highway that the state and German federal government are spending $200 million to build. Joneit says it's a lot cheaper than building other infrastructure.
FRANK JONEIT: For that sum of money, you'll get, well, let's say, 600 feet underground construction for a metro rail. So you see, if you take construction of a motorway, so you get more value for money than constructing a motorway in all. I would say it's about 10 times more at least.
NELSON: He says once it is completed, the bicycle highway will also be good for the environment, removing 50,000 cars from the road as well as their carbon dioxide emissions. In the meantime, other major German cities, including Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich, are studying whether to build bicycle highways, too. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Essen.
QUEEN: (Singing) I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle.