The good thing about living in Nashville is that everything within city limits is a short drive away. The bad thing about living in Nashville is that everything within city limits is a short drive away. In other words, Music City is made for engine-powered, not leg-powered transport.
In 2001, the Nashville Scene published an article titled “We Desperately Need Sidewalks.” In 2009, the City Paper ran an article that states Nashville is the “10th worst pedestrian city in the United States.” Mayor Dean in his State of Metro 2011 address refers to the fact that Tennessee “ranks second (tied with Alabama) as the most obese state in the country.” Hmm.
Yes, there are sidewalks here and there across metro but it’s not uncommon for them to start and stop. For instance, at a nearby school, the sidewalks end at the top of a hill about three blocks away and do not reappear. One fairly new townhouse development in Bellevue that I’m familiar with has sidewalks on one side of its narrow roads but none on the hilly part of the complex. Maybe developers don’t have to conform to a code. Maybe there isn’t one.
Some years back, a sidewalk was added on a street lined with the mansions of Belle Meade although personally, I have never seen anyone actually walking in that neighborhood. Drive on another street that adjoins Belle Meade’s Country Club and you’ll see signs in the yards of elegant homes reading “We Need Sidewalks.”
If you work in the business area of Green Hills and you want to grab lunch at a nearby restaurant, you don’t dare walk on Hillsboro Road, one of the busiest in Nashville. No sidewalks there either or on Woodmont, one intersecting boulevard with a steady stream of traffic. (In this case, Boulevard is a misnomer since it’s defined as a broad city street.) On my hilly residential street, also zero sidewalks. People walking must keep their ears attuned for the sound of a vehicle and be prepared to dive for the side if one comes speeding down the curve of a hill, obscured by heavy foliage.
According to the Nashville government website, $23 million has been dedicated to sidewalks, ramps and bikeways since 2004. The Public Works Department website offers a download of a strategic plan for sidewalks and bikeways but the latest date is 2008. Looking at the department’s Sidewalks Project Map, undated but apparently current, the color green designates new sidewalks planned and deep orange stands for planned sidewalk repair projects. Downtown is a mass of deep orange. Off Charlotte Avenue, another main thoroughfare, is a mass of green.
Mayor Dean is doing his best to promote walking and biking. Bike lanes are indeed popping up everywhere. But with all the hills, you need to be a pretty accomplished rider to feel safe on those two wheels. I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever seen an obese person riding a bike outdoors.
Now that budget cutting is the norm across the country, dwellers of this city who are sidewalk-deprived may have a long wait to see that change. Hopefully, sidewalks will come sooner, but more than likely, later.