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August 19, 2019

Envisioning Better Streets – Cornelia Overton, Landscape Architecture MLA, 2020

by corneliaoverton

Throughout my time at Walk Bike, I’ve been slowly chipping away at my primary summer project when I haven’t been doing other design work and strategizing with my organization. It’s about time I catch y’all up on this!

Entering my internship, my goal was to make a guide to the politics and decision-making around street infrastructure in Nashville. In my initial talks with Walk Bike Nashville’s executive director, Nora Kern, she shared some of the nonprofit’s needs, and a guide to making changes in the streets jumped out at me as a great personal learning opportunity as well as a helpful resource for Nashvillians.

When I arrived at Walk Bike for the summer, Lindsey and Nora immediately connected me via email with a handful of people in city planning and urban design and beautification roles to talk to. I also reached out to someone at the Nashville Civic Design Center, The Cumberland River Compact, and two different community activists who had successfully made changes in their neighborhoods’ infrastructure.  My questions starting out were: What are the frequently asked-for improvements? What infrastructure changes are most difficult, most do-able, and most worth highlighting in the guide? Additionally, I wanted to know what resources on this topic already existed, where the gaps were, and generally how my work could be most helpful.  

After talking with Nora and Lindsey, my mentors at Walk Bike, we decided the guide would best be organized by issues people might care about, with a page of strategies and tactics for addressing each issue leading to individual How-to’s for various specific tactics. For example ‘Better Walking’ would lead to strategies like ‘Traffic Calming’ which includes tactics like ‘Building Sidewalks,’ ‘Planting Street Trees,’ or ‘Lowering the Speed Limit,’ among others. Then each of those changes could be featured on its own page with a list of steps, people you’d talk to, and helpful resources. Lindsey, who worked on Traffic Calming in New York City before moving to Nashville, wanted to emphasize that there are many different ways to approach an issue like ‘Better Walking,’ or ‘Safer Streets,’ and warned against a format that might lead someone to fixate on just one solution.

My next step was to make my Strategies and Tactics ‘menus,’ then start gathering info on how to achieve specific infrastructural changes. With all of this information in a rough draft, I turned my attention towards developing the graphics. In order to get inspired and generate ideas, I started some paintings that could be used to illustrate different concepts in the guide, and make the document a little more visually interesting. Because my first week at Walk Bike ended with their art sale fundraiser, I was also thinking these paintings could also be sold at their next art fundraiser, raising extra awareness about the guide as well as money for the organization.    

I’m spending my last few weeks this summer crystallizing the graphics and finalizing the guide. More on this soon!

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