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Memphis is the 4th deadliest city for pedestrians | How other cities are addressing the problem

As of the morning of Sept. 14th, Memphis has seen 37 pedestrian related deaths so far this year. As a country, the death rate has hit a 41-year high of 7,500 deaths.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Within the course of 24 hours, two separate pedestrian deaths took place in Memphis, one by tractor trailer at Thomas and Chelsea, and another near the Liberty Bowl.

The Liberty Park area has seen several deaths recently. Last month, four lost their lives in separates crashes just hours apart from each other.

Memphis is one of the deadliest cities for pedestrians in the United States, ranking top four according to Money Geek.

“One pedestrian death is one too many,” said Martavius Jones, Memphis City Council Chairman.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, as of the morning of Sept. 14th, Memphis has seen 37 pedestrian related deaths so far this year. As a country, the death rate has hit a 41 year high of 7,500 deaths.

“It got progressively worse during lockdown, and now we’re dealing with the aftermath of that,” said John Barth, Indianapolis City County Council Member.

Barth has been trying to fight the alarming trend in Indianapolis. One of the city’s approaches to keeping pedestrians safe, called Complete Streets, passed just last year. This plan requires Indianapolis Public Works to build new streets and sidewalks with everyone in mind, be it people driving, cycling or walking.

“That way overtime, that kind of pedestrian friendly infrastructure will be put into place, and the city will change overtime,” said Barth, “For example, in downtown Indianapolis, a street that was rebuilt now includes a protected bike lane. That would not have happened if we did not have a Complete Streets ordinance.”

Records show a similar effort was launched in Memphis over a decade ago. In 2013, then Mayor A C Wharton signed an executive order to establish a Complete Streets policy.

However, Jones said executive orders do not always hold the same weight between Memphis mayoral administrations.

“It doesn’t have the teeth of ordinance that is set by city council,” said Jones, “I am disappointed to learn that, if that’s an executive order, and a particular executive order has to be rescinded otherwise it’s still enforced, then it should have been something that we should’ve acted upon.”

As pedestrian death rates remain high, Jones said Memphis could end up exploring the same ordinance options as Indianapolis.

“Doing nothing and sitting on our hands, we aren’t having the safest city as we possibly can,” said Jones.

ABC24 reached out to the City of Memphis to see if Wharton’s executive order was still in place. We have not received a response at this time.

In Memphis, the current approach to tackling pedestrian fatalities includes PSA’s, carrying out studies to find out what neighborhoods need safety enhancements and replacing streetlights with new LED bulbs. The current project to install over 77,000 lights is over 50% complete, according to a website provided by the City of Memphis.

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