Memphis working to make streets safer

City ranked 9th most dangerous for pedestrians

Memphis working to make streets safer

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Walking in Memphis can be deadly.

The Bluff City remains atop a national list of metro areas where pedestrians are in danger.

WMC Action News 5 Investigators found multiple people on Elvis Presley Boulevard playing Russian Roulette with fast moving cars.

Deandra Marrero was one of them, jaywalking at rush hour, holding her kids tight just to cross the street.

“You might have a crosswalk down here. Someone might need to cross in this location, and they just have to cross at their own risk,” she said.

The plight of Memphis pedestrians garners national attention. It’s a danger so bad the group Smart Growth America has ranked Memphis the ninth most dangerous metro area in the country for walking.

WMC5 Investigators combed through nearly three years' worth of pedestrian crash data from Memphis police.

In 2016, 552 people were reported hurt and 25 killed. In 2017, 450 people were reported hurt and 28 killed. As of late August 2018, 319 people were reported hurt with 15 killed.

WMC5 Investigators plotted the data on a heat map, which showed the largest concentration of pedestrian crashes are in midtown and downtown.

“We do have a high number of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries on an annual basis,” said Nicholas Oyler, Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager with the city of Memphis.

He said the concerns are on the city’s radar.

“A lot of times, it’s a design issue. Absolutely pedestrians should cross in the crosswalk, but if the nearest crosswalk is a quarter-mile, a half-mile down the street, what would you do,” Oyler said.

Analyses of the city’s pedestrian crashes and safety upgrades are outlined in a 2015 action plan. The report identifies 20 pilot projects, first steps for the city to improve safety.

Now, three years later in 2018, funding has only been secured for a little more than half of them. That includes a half-mile stretch along Union Avenue set to be shrunk to two lanes in each direction, with bike lanes.

It also includes signal and crosswalk upgrades to Lamar and South Bellevue.

Pedestrian improvements for Poplar Avenue at the central library were later added to the list.

“These 20 locations represent locations we know are hotspots from a safety perspective, but they also have the opportunity to demonstrate all kinds of improvements and show the citizens more of what’s to come,” Oyler said.

The stretch of Elvis Presley is not on the list. That means for the foreseeable future, Deandra Marrero and other residents in the area will be taking their chances.

“There should be more crosswalks,” she said.

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