Stacy Dorris became an advocate for safer streets after a failed attempt to walk to the park by her home in Nashville, not far from Vanderbilt University.
Like most streets in Nashville, there were no sidewalks along the high speed road that leads to the park. Still, Dorris headed out with her dog and stroller and gave it a shot.
After getting buzzed by a few speeding cars, however, she threw in the towel.
“We literally had to abort the mission,” she told the Tennessean. “I feared for my life.”
Since then, Dorris, a physician at Vanderbilt University and a mother of three — two daughters, age 15 and 4, and one son, 2 — has been on a mission to make Nashville more walkable. She is single-handedly leading an effort to reform the city’s sidewalk rules.
Though the city has improved its sidewalk situation dramatically in recent years, it’s still pretty dire. The Tennessean reports that Nashville has only about .45 miles of sidewalks for every two miles of road.
I spoke with Dorris by phone to hear the latest. Here’s what she had to say about her quest to fill in the gaps in the Music City’s pedestrian infrastructure:
That was an interesting story in the Tennessean about how scary your walk to the park was.
Literally, when we tried to walk, legally facing traffic, people were honking at us, people were swerving all over the road. This one SUV, they didn’t see us to the very last second. I think she was texting. It was terrifying. I thought we were going to die. After that we just went home and it was sad. It was so sad that for safety reasons we literally couldn’t walk down our street with a stroller and a dog.
So basically nobody walks in your neighborhood?
No, people do walk on some of the side streets where traffic volume is lower. The problem with Nashville in general that I see, it was either designed poorly or no thought was put into it. There’s these huge superblocks. You really have to go on main corridors to really get anywhere. You can’t get anywhere [on foot] because of these sort of main roads that are very dangerous to walk on.
Why do so few of Nashville’s roads have sidewalks?
One of the things I hear over and over again is that there’s just sort of poor funding. Money is really just sort of a big issue. One of the things that I discovered was there is this whole sidewalk fund that Nashville has set up.