Open Streets Shuts North Nashville to Cars, Welcomes Bicycles and Pedestrians | City limits
On the afternoon of October 17, Buchanan Street will be closed to cars so residents and visitors to North Nashville can dance, play, cycle and shop on the streets. This is part of the Open Streets program run by public transportation advocacy organization Walk Bike Nashville, and it has come together with the help of North Nashville businesses and community leaders.
“Our hope is to show what [happens] when we allow streets to have a multitude of uses, to really leave that space for communities to play and do whatever they want, ”says Brenda Pérez, Community Engagement Coordinator for Walk Bike Nashville.
It’s no secret that Nashville is not a particularly accessible city on foot. In fact, the streets have become more dangerous for walkers in recent years – in 2020, 39 pedestrians were killed by vehicles, an increase from 32 in 2019. In addition, such accidents are more common in popular and disadvantaged classes. income neighborhoods.
Open Streets started in 2015 in the Gulch, before moving to 12South. Walk Bike Nashville hosted the event at Buchanan Street for the first time in 2019, and after being canceled due to the pandemic in 2020, it is back this weekend in North Nashville. Other cities in the United States have Open Streets programs, including Atlanta, San Francisco, and Minneapolis, and Walk Bike Nashville attributes the origins of the program to Bogota, Colombia. The event is designed as a way to rethink roads and infrastructure.
Pérez says it’s important to coordinate and listen to the community when hosting an event like this. One of the community leaders that Walk Bike Nashville has worked closely with to organize Open Streets is writer and North Nashville resident, Mr. Simone Boyd.
“When they approached us to do it in North Nashville, I said, ‘Hey, you know people don’t really know what Open Streets is, and we have to make the event look like us.’ “Boyd explains. (Disclosure: Boyd previously wrote for the Scene.)
Boyd advocated for the event as a way to celebrate arts, history and culture. In 2019, Boyd and his associates helped raise over $ 30,000 for the event from local businesses, which helped fund 11 projects and exhibitions at Open Streets – more than 40 individual artists were featured in this post. midday. There will also be plenty of art at the 2021 event, including singers, dancers and young artists who will address themes ranging from identity to food sustainability with their exhibits.
Boyd is warning participants to dress comfortably and be ready to sweat, with classes in line dancing, Dutch doubles, fitness and more. “This is not an observation event! she says.
Among the local business owners participating in Open Streets is Keith Fulton, co-owner of streetwear store The Trenches. Fulton moved to Nashville from New Orleans earlier this year after his younger brother Kristian scored a coveted gig in town: he was drafted as a cornerback for the Tennessee Titans.
“We’ve been here a few months to notice the lack of streetwear stores, shoe stores, things like that,” says Keith Fulton. The brothers moved to North Nashville in the spring, and Fulton says the store provided an opportunity to introduce his brother as a businessman and athlete. The neighborhood and its history also remind the brothers of their hometown.
Fulton says Open Streets is a great opportunity to “check out all the black-owned businesses and meet everyone – meet the businesses that are going to continue to grow.” The trenches will have merchandise during the event, as well as a three-point shootout contest.
While the pedestrian potential can be a boon for any neighborhood, including working class ones, there are also concerns that the pedestrian potential is linked to gentrification – 12South is a local example of the problem. Pérez says investing in communities like North Nashville isn’t about attracting developers, it’s about listening to residents and finding what they want and need. Pérez adds that communities should not have to forgo improvements to avoid displacement.
“We deserve to have places where we can be outside safely and not be afraid of traffic,” Pérez said.
Boyd says a lot of the stories about North Nashville are about either real estate or violence and crime. After the March 2020 tornado hit North Nashville, predatory investors rushed to bid on devastated homes and neighboring buildings, raising concerns about post-disaster gentrification.
But “North Nashville has so many stories,” Boyd says. Although she says she doesn’t know how to stop gentrification – a puzzle that cities and activists across the country grapple with – she believes it will be important to celebrate and amplify voices. community, including with events like this.
“There is a strong community here,” she says. “There is a strong culture here. And we invite you to celebrate with us.