Jan 6, 2022 - News

Nashville pedestrian casualties increasing at alarming rate

Annual pedestrian, cyclist and scooter deaths in Nashville
Data: Metro Nashville Police Department; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Pedestrians in Nashville are dying at a high rate that underscores the urgency of efforts to improve safety on the city's busiest streets, activists and leaders tell Axios.

  • Thirty-nine people died in Nashville last year while walking, biking, or using scooters, according to police data.

Why it matters: The data illustrates an alarming trend. Pedestrian deaths are becoming increasingly prevalent as the city continues to grow and develop its urban core.

  • Mayor John Cooper's administration teamed up with activists and government agencies to address the growing problem. They produced a new report, the Vision Zero Action Plan, that recommends a series of changes to improve safety, including lowering speed limits and redesigning crosswalks.

The latest: A draft of the Vision Zero plan was released last month and found just 2% of Nashville's roads accounted for 60% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians.

  • Danger is concentrated on many of the city's major roads, including Dickerson, Nolensville, Murfreesboro, and Gallatin pikes.

Between the lines: Vision Zero includes an analysis of pedestrian safety as part of a broad review of traffic problems.

  • The report states that Nashville ranks 24th in the country in traffic deaths per 100,000 residents.

What they're saying: "The Vision Zero Action Plan confirms what we already know — that there are deep inequities in the design of our streets," Meredith Montgomery, executive director of the advocacy group Walk Bike Nashville, tells Axios.

  • "It is evident where additional infrastructure is urgently needed for improved traffic safety."

Yes, but: Advocates have clamored for improvements for years. Progress has been slow.

  • Efforts to expand the city's network of sidewalks are complicated and can face pushback.
  • "It sometimes feels like when we look at bike lanes or pedestrian safety improvements it's perceived as an attack on motor vehicle culture or that something is being taken away," Councilmember Sean Parker, who has advocated for pedestrian safety, tells Axios.

By the numbers: Yearly death totals have more than doubled since 2016, when police say 17 pedestrians died.

  • Parker says the growing coalition of government and community leaders that formed after deaths rose could signal a long-overdue paradigm shift.

What's next: The city is currently taking feedback from the public on the Vision Zero plan.

  • Walk Bike Nashville is hosting its annual memorial event on Jan. 29 for pedestrians killed over the last year.
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