For anyone who has ever wondered why I post and write about sidewalks as much as I do, this article in the New York Times entitled The Pedestrian Strikes Back by Richard Conniff is a concise synopsis of my concerns and desires, particularly for Nashville. If you are here in Nashville, you may have noted are severe lack of sidewalks: we have them on 20% of our roadways, often on only one side of the street and progress is SLOW. We are not, in any sense, a well connected grid. We are a sprawling city based on a wagon wheel design and it is not good for pedestrians.
Summary from article:
Urban walking has deteriorated from a civilized pleasure to an overheated unshaded, traffic harried race to a destination.
Car owners have mistaken their century long domination over pedestrians for a right rather than a privilege. Planners, in the past, have focused on unlimited vehicular flow and have seen other modes of transit (walking, etc) as impediments to this flow. But focusing on vehicular flow is a kind of perversion of basic social equality. There is a significant cost to all these cars and the space they require: and the cost comes in the form of loss of place and loss of space for things that make a city scape rich (tree coverage, parks, wide sidewalks, not to mention a car's pollution).
The author notes that on large arterial roads, walkers feel comfortable with the sidewalk is 15 feet wide. Cities and their streets are for people not their cars. All urban designers should think about the only transit equipment that comes factory standard for the average person - their feet.
Cities are not doing enough to restore streets for pedestrian use, and it's the pedestrians who should be furious.
- highly efficient means of transit
- great underrated pleasure
What other cites are doing:
- Denver investing $1.2 billion in sidewalks: proposal to bring public transit (AKA sidewalks) within 1/4 mile of ALL residents
- Oslo: banning all cars from the city center
- Madrid: Banning cars owned by non-residents
What can you do:
- read this article and think about it. How is Nashville doing? What can we do better?
- advocate for sidewalks and walkability
---when you see a business, home or school making major changes, ask them to put in a sidewalk, too.
---build the sidewalk when it is required of you. Do not ask for a variance or pay the in-lieu fee.
- yield to pedestrians
- 20mph is Plenty: when there is a pedestrian in the roadway (without a sidewalk), slow down! This allows a pedestrian to feel comfortable
- donate to: The Sidewalk Foundation - a non-profit dedicated to building new high quality sidewalks here in Nashville