There are numerous reasons why our community should view these numbers with concern. Transportation is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in our county, with 174,074,382 cubic feet of CO2 produced per day by our car-bound commuters. Sixty two percent of adults living in Nashville are overweight or obese, which isn’t surprising when 26% adults reported no physical activity in the last 30 days. [iii] Our car-based transportation system directly contributed to the deaths of 75 people last year, 23 of whom were on foot.[iv] And with the average household spending 22% of their income ($12,051) on transportation, lack of affordable transportation choices has become a major barrier to job access and affordable living in our city.[v]
Walking, bicycling and public transportation are a key part of the solution to these varied but critical challenges facing our community. For that reason, one of the city’s non-profit organization that I serve as Executive Director of -- Walk Bike Nashville -- has worked over the past 20 years to make our city more accessible, safe and inviting to those on foot, bicycle or bus. We believe that by redesigning our streets around people, rather than cars, we can create a city that is healthier, more equitable, safer and more vibrant.
2017 Walk the Pike Event on Murfreesboro Pike
In recent years major strides have been made to change our city’s streets and our residents’ habits. Mayor Barry began her term in office by setting the goal of achieving zero roadway fatalities – known as Vision Zero. In the 2017 budget Mayor Barry dedicated $30 Million for the Metro sidewalks program and $5 Million for the Metro Bikeways program. Public Works has installed new protected bike lanes on Music Row, Davidson Street, 51st Ave North, and 10th Ave South. Metro Council has updated the sidewalk requirements for developers.
During the past four years, Walk Bike Nashville has hosted over 100 free community classes on walking and biking and organized events like the Tour de Nash, Walk to School Day and Open Streets Nashville. These programs teach Nashville residents, established and new alike, that walking and biking can be a part of their daily lives.
Improved Mid-block Intersection on Nolensville
This year the Mayor’s office has also launched the Let’s Move Nashville Plan, which maps out major investments in transit, walking and bicycling over the next 14 years, and proposes using local funding to invest in this critically needed infrastructure. This plan will go before the people for a ballot referendum on May 1, 2018.
2017 Walk Bike Rodeo at Lockeland Elementary
It’s now up to each one of us to ensure that our city offers transportation options. You can start by trying to walk or ride a bicycle for easy trips around town – the more people who walk and bike, the safer it is for all of us. You can get involved with Walk Bike Nashville by volunteering at one of our events, or hosting a class at your workplace or place of worship. You can talk to your council person and neighborhood association about missing sidewalks or bike lanes in your neighborhood. You can encourage your business or office to promote active transportation to work. You can start a walking school bus to your children’s school. And this year, we hope everyone will come out to vote on May 1st for the referendum on the Mayor’s Transportation Plan.
Blog author, Ms. Nora Kern, is the Executive Director of Walk Bike Nashville, a nonprofit working to build a more walkable, bikeable, and livable Nashville.