Report Says Nashville Among The Most Dangerous U.S. Cities For Pedestrians

Pedestrians are common on Dickerson Road, a busy arterial road that has a narrow shoulder most of its route. Sidewalks run along only its southernmost mile or so. Image: Mack Linebaugh / WPLN

Pedestrians are common on Dickerson Road, a busy arterial road that has a narrow shoulder most of its route. Sidewalks run along only its southernmost mile or so. Data from a new pedestrian safety study shows eight pedestrian fatalities on the road from 2003-2012 Image: Mack Linebaugh / WPLN

The Nashville metro area is one of the nation’s most dangerous for pedestrians, according to a new study from Smart Growth America, a group that advocates for more pedestrian-focused urban planning.

The report, Dangerous by Design [PDF], measured pedestrian death statistics from 2003-2012, relative to census survey data of how many people walk to work. Each of the 51 largest metro areas was given a Pedestrian Danger Index score (PDI). The Nashville metro area ranks 15th most dangerous, with a PDI score of 100.79.

To give you some idea of the scale, Orlando-Kissimmee, Florida has the highest PDI score, 244.28. The next three on the list are all in Florida too: Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami. Then there’s Memphis at number 5, with a PDI score of 145.33.

Boston has the lowest PDI, at 18.65. Pittsburgh, Seattle, New York, and San Francisco round out the bottom five, all with PDIs under 35.

A screenshot of the map showing pedestrian deaths by location from 2003-2012. You can set custom parameters, like search distance and date range.

A screenshot of the map showing pedestrian deaths by location from 2003-2012. You can set custom parameters, like search distance and date range.

Where Do Pedestrian Deaths Occur?

Since the report is comparing pedestrian deaths to census survey data, it defines the region by the Nashville-Franklin-Murfreesboro Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), designated for use by the Census Bureau. There were 210 pedestrian deaths from 2003-2012 in the MSA.

Accompanying the report is an interactive map, where you can search for pedestrian deaths by location. If you draw a 50-mile circle around the center of Nashville — which would then include Clarksville — 251 fatalities appear, each represented by a dot.

Sixty percent of Nashville area pedestrian deaths occurred on arterial roadways during this nine-year range, and there’s some clustering of the map’s dots along some of our busiest streets: Murfreesboro Pike, Gallatin Pike, Dickerson Road, Rosa Parks Boulevard — between the capitol and I-65, and along both Harding place and Bell Road in the Antioch area.

Notably, however, no dots appear along the West End / Harding Pike corridor between Midtown and Bellevue. There were also no pedestrian deaths on the full length of 21st Avenue through Hillsboro Pike, all the way to Franklin.

It isn’t clear that pedestrian safety got better or worse in the Nashville area. There were 27 pedestrian fatalities in the 50 mile circle in 2003. In 2012, there were 24. The years between have fluctuated between 18 and 34.

Nationally however, the share of traffic deaths that were pedestrians increased steadily, by about 3 percentage points.

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