Local organizations, residents and city leaders came together on January 29 at the city intersection of Murfreesboro Road and Millwood Drive to pay tribute to people whose lives were cut short in traffic accidents. Their purpose was also to address ways to prevent more traffic deaths.
The fifth annual Pedestrian Memorial occurred as families of pedestrians who were killed in traffic accidents gathered along with street safety advocates and Metro Nashville council members at one of the most dangerous intersections in Nashville to honor the lives of 38 pedestrians killed in preventable traffic deaths. The memorial, hosted by Walk Bike Nashville, called on city leaders and Nashville Mayor John Cooper to find ways to make Nashville’s roads safer. According to a press release, 2021 was the deadliest year for traffic deaths in Nashville history with 132 people killed in traffic-related deaths, which broke the previous record in 1996.
A team of Walk Bike Nashville volunteers constructed an installation during the memorial where the group and families of pedestrians killed in traffic deaths walked along Murfreesboro Road.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper has set a goal of zero traffic deaths, but progress in making repairs to Nashville’s streets had been slow. Seven roads in Nashville continue to account for more than 50% of pedestrian deaths. Walk Bike Nashville, along with Vanderbilt University, created an online mapping tool that told the stories of the people who were killed while walking in 2021.
According to a report from NewsChannel 5, 13 pedestrians have been killed statewide in 2022. Walk Bike Nashville called on Mayor Cooper to repair traffic signals and pedestrian crossings on the dangerous roads. Families for Safe Streets said action needed to be taken to save pedestrian lives. Darlett Sowers, whose son was killed walking along Antioch Pike in 2020, said that the city needed sidewalks and lights over crosswalks. Families for Safe Streets member Chuck Isbell, whose 13-year-old son was killed after being struck by a speeding driver in Rutherford County, said the solution would be to reduce the speed limit in residential neighborhoods.
“Slower speed limits save lives,” said Isbell. “If you hit a pedestrian at 40 mph, there is an 80% chance they’ll die. At 20 mph, there’s a 90% chance they’ll live.”
Walk Bike Nashville estimates that 10%-30% of the people who died while walking each year for the past five years were experiencing homelessness. Edward Kehoe, an Outreach Program coordinator at Open Table Nashville, said providing housing for the homeless will cut down on the walking death rate.