Congressman Steve Cohen holds roundtable in Memphis to discuss pedestrian, bike safety on streets

Congressman Steve Cohen holds roundtable in Memphis to discuss pedestrian, bike safety on streets

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Once again, Memphis tops the list of metro areas where pedestrians are most in danger, according to a report from Smart Growth America. Friday, Congressman Steve Cohen convened a roundtable discussion with state and local leaders to talk about the problem.

Dozens of pedestrians have been hit and killed in Memphis in recent years, including a Memphis college of art student fatally hit at Poplar and Tucker back in 2017 crossing the street in the crosswalk. The city fast-tracked public safety improvements for the intersection after the death of Kelcie Ashmore, 22.

"The conversation we are having today is one that I believe frankly is long overdue in our community," said Nicholas Oyler, Bikeway and Pedestrian Manager, City of Memphis.

Calling it a crisis on the streets, Congressman Steve Cohen led a roundtable discussion Friday aimed at rallying support for a House bill he’s sponsoring in DC.

Termed the “Complete Streets Act,” it calls for states to set aside 5 percent of their federal highway money to design programs to make streets more bike and pedestrian-friendly.

“Our streets have been built for years just for automobiles and high speeds, not taking into consideration safety factors,” said Cohen.

A WMC Action News 5 investigation in 2018 found Memphis ranked the 9th most dangerous metro area in the country for walking. The city’s ranking, by the group Smart Growth America, ticked down to 11th most dangerous for 2019.

Our analysis of data provided by MPD in 2018 found most incidents where pedestrians were hit or killed were concentrated in midtown or downtown.

“A complete street is one way of describing a street that works for everyone, no matter how you get around,” said Oyler, “Whether that’s on foot or a bike, driving a car, trying to catch the bus, a complete street is one that is safe for everyone.”

City leaders say there are 1,000 improvement projects identified in Memphis but the cost to fix everything would be $1.1 billion. So, the city has had to prioritize only the most important projects and would welcome any help from the federal government.

In 2017, the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) kicked off a pedestrian awareness campaign in the medical district.

The city and TDOT are also adding bike and pedestrian lanes to Elvis Presley Boulevard in Whitehaven.

Cohen’s bill was introduced in the House this summer. It’s been referred to a subcommittee.

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