A timeline of the work Walk Bike Nashville has done in and with the JC Napier/Tony Sudekum Metro Housing Community.
Ashleigh Wilson; Engagement Coordinator
In 2021 and 2022, Walk Bike Nashville collected over 200 surveys from people walking, biking, and taking the bus along Lafayette/Murfreesboro Pike, from Charles E Davis Blvd. to Thompson Ln–one of the most deadly corridors in Tennessee for people outside of cars. A summary of our findings is available in our Murfreesboro Pike Community Report. Through the surveying process, the engagement team identified some residents of the JC Napier/Tony Sudekum metro housing communities that were interested in seeing some changes to their streets.
Located at the intersection of Lafayette/Murfreesboro Pike and Charles E Davis, the JC Napier/Tony Sudekum communities are a very specific design. It’s an island so close, yet seemingly so far from Downtown and located in a food desert surrounded by roads with 40+ miles per hour speeds. However, within the island are riches: an elementary school, a clinic, a community center with an olympic sized pool, a park, a library with a plethora of outreach programming, a handful of churches, and a Dollar General store.
Traffic Calming on Charles E. Davis
Residents in the Napier community wanted to feel safe crossing Charles E. Davis Blvd. to go to the library and free clinic but car speeds averaged 40 mph on the neighborhood street. In the summer of 2022, residents applied for speed humps, new crosswalks, and stop signs on Charles E. Davis Blvd. New crosswalks were quickly painted and speed humps were installed which resulted in the average speed dropping to 24 mph. Additionally, in October of 2022, lighted pedestrian signs were added to make it easier to see pedestrians crossing the road.
Launching a Walking School Bus
Following this, with the assistance of our then Schools Coordinator, Juleesia Santiago-Karim, Napier Elementary was able to launch the first Walking School Bus in November of 2022 as a way to address their low attendance rates. If you’ve never heard of a walking school bus, it is a community-driven initiative where groups of children walk to school together, supervised by adult volunteers. Similar to a traditional school bus route, designated meeting points and scheduled routes ensure safety. This promotes physical activity, enhances pedestrian safety, reduces traffic congestion, and builds a strong sense of community. It's a simple and effective way to make the journey to school healthier, safer, and more connected for children and families. The kids start corralling at the Pruitt Branch Library on Charles E. Davis to meet their Community Achieves Coordinator, Marc Anthony Peek and then walk down Cannon St. to the school. There are two “pick-up” stops along the way. Napier Elementary is located at the intersection of Cannon St. and Fairfield Ave.-- less than a mile from an on-ramp for I-24W/I-40W.
Before the year was over we learned about the Community Safety and Resource meetings held at Church of the Messiah and facilitated by the MDHA (Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency) office that is onsite. At one of the meetings we learned that there was an issue with the streets in the community being illuminated. The reasons varied, but the main problem was that the lights were not maintained regularly enough to be changed or repaired. With this information, our Community Engagement Coordinator, Ashleigh Wilson, planned an introductory engagement event called Walking Lights in January 2023. The intention of the event was to walk the Walking School Bus kids back down Cannon to Pruitt Library after school where there was hot chocolate, snacks, and an activity. Along the way, we would wrap string lights around the light poles to illuminate their path. Unfortunately, it was the coldest day of the month and none of the Walking School Bus kids were interested in a walk. Walk Bike staff still walked the route and wrapped lights around the poles. When we got to the library, we invited the kids that were in the computer lab to join us. All the kids left with smiles and hot chocolate on their faces.
Conversations about Transit
In March 2023 WBN partnered with Transit Alliance to facilitate a community conversation about transit and improvements needed in anticipation of a 2024 transit referendum. The meaningful conversation was held at Claiborne Family Faith and Worship Center and the room was full of residents of Napier/Sudekum and neighboring communities.
Earth Day Highlights Pedestrian Safety and Clean-Up
Nashville always has an annual Earth Day event, but if someone doesn’t have a car they are not able to easily access this opportunity of education and celebration. In March 2023 Ashleigh began a partnership with Jaffee Judah of Recycle Reinvest, a community-led and driven organization that adopted Charles E Davis Blvd. and had been conducting a monthly street clean up in the neighborhood for a few years. They started planning an event called Earth Day in Napier in collaboration with Marc Anthony Peek. The main intention of this event was to walk down Charles E Davis and cross Lafayette/Murfreesboro Pike to Dudley Park. The park is less than a mile from Napier but community members don’t access it because of how dangerous it is to cross Lafayette.
We gathered at Church of the Messiah before the walk where Juleesia led a walking and pedestrian safety education demonstration. Recycle Reinvest led a street litter clean-up component of the event and encouraged the mindset of leaving things better than how you found them both on the way to Dudley Park and while we were there. The kids and residents that joined were met at Dudley Park by friendly faces that facilitated Earth and environmental sustainability activities. Those friendly faces were from Trevecca Nazarene University, Grow 2 Learn, Network for Sustainable Solutions, Youth Arts Empowerment, and more of the Recycle Reinvest team. Ironically, it rained on us while at the Park. Meshach Adams, our Community Engagement Assistant, led the walk back towards Church of the Messiah but there was a surprise waiting for us along the way thanks to Butter, Eggs & Bacon–a local restaurant and quick-stop shop that was very valuable during the pandemic. Marc Anthony had arranged for the owner to gift the kids some kind of treat along their travels – little did we know that treat was soft serve ice cream! After their ice cream break everyone continued to Church of the Messiah, leaving things better than how they found them.
Bike to School Day and Napier Day Foster Traffic Calming Conversations
In May 2023, Juleesia worked with NDOT (Nashville Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure), Marc Anthony, and the Civic Design Center to highlight Napier Elementary and execute Bike to School Day. The route continued the emphasis of how important improvements to the path from Pruitt Library to Napier Elementary were needed and a pilot traffic calming installation took place to reinforce that.
Through the work and collaborations with other organizations in the community, WBN had the opportunity to help support community partner Joe Baze in a parade and celebration of community in the honor of JC Napier. The Napier Day parade and block party connected all kinds of community partners and residents for a whole day of fellowship. The day also allowed us to gather feedback on the Bike to School Day traffic calming installation and other desires related to walking safety.
In response to continued engagement and community feedback, WBN executed the second phase of traffic calming along Cannon in October. We had an opportunity to partner with local artist and community partner Charles Key of Low Key Art to paint a mural at the intersection of Claiborne and Cannon Street to narrow the road. With NDOTs help there were also planter boxes at Lewis and Cannon, and plastic delineators at Fairfield and Cannon all to narrow the roadway and slow down the through traffic.
Recognition for the Work We’ve Done and Making Plans for the Year Ahead
Rounding out the year, on Thursday, November 14, 2023, Walk Bike Nashville was recognized with the Grassroots Engagement Award at the Tennessee Justice Center Community Partner Luncheon for “...consistent commitment to providing quality programming and life changing experiences to the youth in the Napier-Sudekum Community.”
There are more plans and continuations of projects to come for 2024. If you have any interest in getting involved and/or helping us uplift the needs of the Napier/Sudekum community or South Nashville, whether directly transit related or not, please contact [email protected].
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