Nolensville Numbers Prove Positive: Follow-up Study

Prior to 2018, the intersection at Nolensville Pike and Welshwood Drive was one of the most deadly for pedestrians. The intersection had six pedestrian deaths from 2010 - 2017. TDOT and Metro Public works have made improvements to this intersection, beginning in 2018. The first intervention included a pedestrian-activated flashing beacons, refuge island, signage and temporary ADA ramp. In summer 2019 TDOT replaced the mid-block crossing with a permanent traffic signal and crossing at the Welshwood Drive intersection. Walk Bike Nashville has held two pedestrian counts to observe and track pedestrian behavior after both interventions. Results from the 2020 data count can be found here. 

In 2018 TDOT, along with Metro Public Works, installed a temporary mid-block crossing on Nolensville Pike, just south of Welshwood Drive This intervention included a pedestrian-activated flashing beacons, refuge island, signage and temporary ADA ramp. In 2019, following these initial improvements Walk Bike Nashville collected pedestrian count data to observe and track pedestrian behavior at the intersection at Nolensville Pike and Welshwood Drive. The results of that study can be found here

In summer 2019 TDOT replaced the mid-block crossing with a permanent traffic signal and crossing at the Welshwood Driveintersection. We have performed a follow-up study to compare the behavior of pedestrians at this new traffic light, with the behavior of pedestrians at the enhanced mid-block crossing. 

Our hypothesis was that the temporary mid-block crossing would see higher rates of pedestrians using the infrastructure because of the protection offered by the refuge island, and due to the fact that the pedestrian-activated flashing lights immediately responded to the pedestrian while the traffic light would require significant waiting. Our data proved to support our hypothesis. 

We saw a decrease in the pedestrian level of service was after mid-block crossing removed for signal with crossing in the crosswalk, which we believe was due to the pedestrian wait times at a traffic signal. At a mid-block crossing, pedestrians could press the crossing button at the crosswalk and immediately be given the right of way. At a traffic light, they must wait until the light changes, which can take up to 90 seconds. Often, pedestrians do not wait for that extended period of time, and tend to cross before they have the right of way. 

Similar to 2019’s study, Walk Bike Nashville staff and volunteers spent three days at the Nolensville Pike and Welshwood Drive intersection counting the behavior of pedestrians and recording the results. The data was collected from February 6 - 8, 2020. We held four, two-hour shifts each day to track pedestrians that crossed Nolensville Pike, measuring three criteria: did the pedestrian use the crosswalk at the traffic light, did they wait to cross once they had the “walking symbol” right-of-way, and were they a transit rider.

In total, we witnessed 449 pedestrians crossing Nolensville Pike in 2020, compared to 643 in 2019. You can see our other results below:

  • 70%, 313 pedestrians, used the crosswalk at the traffic light to cross Nolensville Pike
    • This is down from the 88% in 2019 that used the mid-block crossing
  • 69%, 310 pedestrians, waited for the “walking symbol” to indicate that they had the right-of-way 
    • This is up from the 64% of folks in 2019 that pressed the button to signal to cars that they were crossing at the mid-block crossing. Previously the presence of the refuge island facilitated crossing without a light
  • 52% of the pedestrians that crossed Nolensville Pike were transit riders
    • This is down from the 55% in the 2019 study 

We also looked at overall crash data (car-to-car and car-to-pedestrian) from before the mid-block crossing was installed to March 31st, 2020. We found that since the improved infrastructure has been installed, all crashes have been reduced at this location. This shows the importance of quality infrastructure and the impact it can have on the safety of all road users. Below is the crash data at this intersection since 2016: 

2016: 43 Total Crashes, 4 involving pedestrians, 1 pedestrian fatality

2017: 46 total crashes, 3 involving pedestrians, 2 pedestrian fatalities

2018: 24 total crashes, 1 involving pedestrians, 0 deaths

2019: 30 total crashes, 1 involving pedestrians, 0 deaths

2020 (as of March 31, 2020): 9 total crashes, 0 involving pedestrians, 0 deaths

Our conclusion is that a high quality mid-block crossing, with a refuge island and pedestrian-activated light, is safer because it is more pedestrian-friendly than a traffic light with long wait times.  The larger take-away is that improved infrastructure can save lives. We are thankful that TDOT and Metro Nashville have prioritized safety at this previously deadly intersection. And we ask that they continue to make safety and Vision Zero a priority in our city. Lives depend on it.  

A few additional notes about the 2020 study: 

  • The weather ranged from 32 degrees and sleeting to 50 degrees and sunny over the course of the three days. The majority of the time, it was cloudy and/or raining. We anticipated the poor weather conditions affected the lower number of pedestrians seen compared to the 2019 study. 
  • There were 2 bicycles and one non-electric scooter that also crossed Nolensville Pike. Two used the crosswalk and one did not. 
  • There was a discrepancy in pedestrian numbers for the waiting for the “walking symbol” category. This category had one less pedestrian than the total number of pedestrians. We attribute this to human error. 

Also, a big THANK YOU to our volunteers who helped collect data for this report!