NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As Nashville struggles with pedestrian deaths and traffic fatalities, many wonder if the city will ever achieve its goal of “Vision Zero,” eliminating all traffic fatalities. Hoboken, New Jersey previously set out on the same mission and it became a reality.
“Our experience in Hoboken is data driven and Vision Zero generally is a data driven initiative,” said Hoboken transportation planner Greg Francese. “I think, you know, looking at the crash data in Hoboken, looking at the crash data in Nashville, there’s probably some similarities but it’s certainly not a one size fits all solution.”
The population in Hoboken, NJ was 58,690 as of 2021 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But it’s considered to be in the New York City Metro area, which latest census data listed its population as 8.4 million people. Nashville-Davidson County’s latest censes population was 678,851.
Last year, Nashville had a record number of pedestrian deaths, with 49 people killed while walking or biking in the metro area. The Vision Zero action plan is aiming to curb those statistics and save lives.
“There’s definitely a lot of value in looking at what’s causing injuries and deaths and responding to that to help prevent those deaths and injuries happening in the future,” said Francese, adding that Hoboken’s journey started over 10 years ago with a complete streets policy that included things like curb extensions, bike lanes, and higher visibility crosswalks.
He said pedestrians and bicyclists in Hoboken were only involved in five percent of crashes but they made up 40% of the injuries in crashes. They also learned about three quarters of their crashes were happening at intersections.
“Looking at the crash analysis has really helped us turbocharged… that is making sure that the visibility at intersections is really high and that drivers can see when they’re approaching an intersection if there’s a pedestrian crossing, pedestrians can see vehicles approaching the intersection and bicyclists can see if cars or pedestrians are approaching as well,” said Francese.
In 2019, they adopted a Vision Zero initiative to eliminate all traffic deaths and injuries by 2020. Francese said they’ve focused their decisions on the data they discovery in these crashes.
“We just lowered our speed limit citywide from 25 miles an hour to 20 miles an hour,” said Francese. “According to crash data, the severity of an injury or the likelihood of death is directly linked to the speed that the driver was driving when the crash happened. And we know that, for instance, a pedestrian that is hit by a vehicle driving at 30 miles an hour is 50% likely to have a severe injury or die. And when you lower the speed limit to 20 miles an hour, that risk reduces all the way to 25%.”
In 2019 there were 46 pedestrian injuries, in 2021 there were 30 pedestrian injuries, and there have been zero traffic deaths since 2017. Hoboken saw 169 traffic injuries in 2019 and the number decreased to 140 in 2021.
“It’s a long term goal, it’s a long term strategy and it takes time and people shouldn’t lose patience,” said Francese. “Especially with the increase in the interest in people walking and biking, you have to protect the people that are most vulnerable, and the people that are most likely going to suffer from a severe injury or death in a crash.”
He says part of their Vision Zero initiative is a pledge to educate all roadway users about certain types of behavior that they might not be aware of and can contribute to crashes, injuries and deaths.
“That’s kind of, you know, a more longer term thing in changing that behavior,” said Francese.