Update 1/22/24: There were 36 pedestrian fatalities in Nashville in 2023, compared to 39 in 2022. There was one bicyclist fatality in Nashville in 2023, compared to two in 2022. In total, 138 people died on Nashville roads in 2023, an eight percent increase year-over-year. Pedestrian fatalities on local streets decreased 40% in 2023, from 15 to nine. On state routes, however, pedestrian fatalities were up 17%, from 24 to 28. These figures exclude fatalities on interstates and private property. Only surface streets are included, which puts these figures in conflict with others, including the 47 pedestrian fatality number we reported for 2022.
Stubborn Fatality Trends and Promising Projects
Wesley Smith; Policy and Government Relations Manager
Nashville is concluding its first implementation year of Vision Zero, an effort to eliminate all road fatalities by 2050. As such, it's an appropriate time to reflect on fatal crash statistics, developments from this year, and projects coming in 2024. While it is easy to get lost in statistics, each fatal crash represents a life, a family, and a community changed forever. We’re working hard to support victims’ families through our local Families for Safe Streets chapter. In this blog post, we are providing updates on what we feel is the most important of the “5 Es” of the safe systems’ approach: engineering. When we engineer roads to be safe for everybody, we will save lives and make our streets vibrant, accessible, and enjoyable for all that travel them.
Update on fatal crash statistics
Eliminating fatalities is the goal of Vision Zero and the primary metric of success. 2022 was the deadliest year ever for Nashville pedestrians with 47 people killed while walking and 2 people killed while biking. In January, Walk Bike Nashville released its Remembering Pedestrians in Nashville story map and hosted our 6th annual Pedestrian Memorial on Dickerson Road to honor those lives lost. Families of victims, advocates, and elected officials gathered for the ceremony and experienced a memorial installation of 47 white pairs of shoes and 2 ghost bikes.
Unfortunately, Nashville will not reverse the fatality trend in 2023. As of late November, total fatal crashes were up to 123 from 115 the year before. Thirty-two people have died walking, compared to 30 a year ago, excluding interstates. Of note, fatal crashes on state routes have increased 17 percent but decreased eight percent on Metro-owned roads, further highlighting the dangers of the city’s “pikes”, which are mostly owned by the state. In fact, 59 percent of all fatal crashes occur on just 6 percent of roads in Nashville. Further, 60 percent of fatalities of people walking occur on just 2 percent of roads, according to Nashville’s Vision Zero Action Plan. In other words, focused attention on the most dangerous sections of the most dangerous roads could expedite Nashville’s road to zero fatalities.
While the 2023 fatal crash statistics remain bleak, there is hope in the form of announced projects on Dickerson, Nolensville, and Gallatin Pike.
Dickerson: Informed by Walk Bike Nashville’s Dickerson Pike Pedestrian Safety Plan, the mayor’s budget surplus will fund five intersection improvements along Dickerson Pike and an additional $12 million in Vision Zero projects across Nashville. Additionally, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is in the early stages of redesigning the 1.7 mile stretch of Dickerson Pike from Trinity Ln. to Broadmoor/Ewing Dr. We are hopeful these changes will transform the corridor to be safer for people walking and biking along the corridor and to their bus stops. (Read more about our work on Dickerson Pike in our blog post.)
Nolensville: In December, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded Nashville a $13 million Safe Streets for All Grant to improve safety along Nolensville Pike. The project will focus on safety improvements from McCall St. and Haywood Ln. The 2.5 mile stretch is one of the most dangerous in Nashville for all modes of transportation, especially people walking, biking, and taking the bus.
Gallatin/Main: The Nashville Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure (NDOT) has a unique opportunity with Main St. and Gallatin Pike. It is the only major pike in Davidson County that the city owns, and NDOT has announced its intention to transform, in phases, from 5th St. all the way to Briley Pkwy. NDOT began community engagement for the project this December and will continue into 2024. The street redesign will follow water main work expected to be completed through 2024. Thus, the transformational project for the section of Main St. between 5th and 10th St. should begin in early 2025. Community input will be crucial in making this project a safe street for users regardless of mode choice or ability.
The Need for Alignment at Every Level
Vision Zero is a necessary and complex project. While the fatality trend continues moving in the wrong direction, there is promise in upcoming projects. The city’s highly traveled high-speed corridors should be priority number one. Greater alignment between TDOT, NDOT, the mayor’s office, and federal government on these routes will put us on the path toward zero fatal crashes.
On November 19, we hosted our annual World Day of Remembrance event to call for action at every level of government. To symbolize the need for both a local and state commitment to safer streets, advocates walked from Public Square Park to the State Capitol, where 1,000 yellow flags were planted to commemorate the more than 1,000 Tennesseans lost each year in preventable fatal crashes. The ceremony featured moving messages from members of Nashville’s Families for Safe Streets Chapter, who have lost children in fatal crashes. Their stories bring to life the tragic crash statistics–if our streets were safer, their children would be alive today.
In the words of Kim Milligan, who’s daughter Alyssa was killed while riding her bike on Hwy. 100 near Warner Parks, “We can make changes and I think we can work together to — not save my daughter — but what you could do for me is prevent it from ever happening again.”
Members of our Families for Safe Streets Program (FSS)
Left to right: Kim Milligan, Chuck Isbell, Darlett and Ernie Sowers, Martha and Ivan Warmuth
Check out more shots of the day on our Facebook Page!
Do you like this page?