Champion Spotlight: Memphis, TN

This case study was written as part of our Dangerous by Design Technical Assistance program. This initiative brought together champions from across the country to advance street safety efforts through data collection and storytelling. This study was written by Jackson McNeil from Innovate Memphis.

Crosswalks and a wide median help to reclaim space for people crossing a wide roadway

Memphis is the #1 most deadly metro area, with a rate that has nearly tripled since 2009. Learn more in Dangerous by Design.

In the past 4 years, there have been over 1,000 pedestrians killed or injured in Memphis. Too often these victims are children walking to and from school. Unfortunately, most pedestrian deaths are no more than a one to two-line story on local news websites, which does little to humanize the victim and their families, or provide the context of how the design of the road played into the tragedy. Learn what it’s like to walk the streets of Memphis in this video. 


Many streets in Memphis and Shelby County are extremely dangerous for pedestrians. The most dangerous have seen over ten pedestrian fatalities in the last three years, with many additional serious injuries. All of these corridors are wide, multi-lane roads with high pedestrian activity but little to no infrastructure to support active transportation. Many signalized intersections are over half of a mile apart on these roads, contributing to high speeds, low yield rates in crosswalks, and forcing people walking to make the choice between adding time to their trips or crossing midblock.

To see which streets are the most dangerous in Memphis and Shelby County, check out the Dangerous by Design interactive map 

“We must continue and accelerate our local efforts to address this issue through the redesign of our streets. There are great examples all over the country of streets that are safe and enjoyable for pedestrians, and even some in our own city. Let’s continue to champion the improvements that have been made and ensure that our most dangerous streets become places where we are all safe to enjoy our beautiful city.” Jackson McNeil, Transportation & Mobility Director, Innovate Memphis

Taking Action

This project’s goal is to provide education and resources to the media and the public around the importance and impact that street design has on the safety of all road users. Pedestrian activity is a vital part of a thriving community, and street design should ensure that the safety, accessibility, and comfort of pedestrians is prioritized over the speed and throughput of vehicles.

BLDG Memphis is a coalition of organizations and individuals who support the equitable redevelopment of healthy, vibrant, attractive, and economically sustainable neighborhoods throughout Memphis. BLDG Memphis and some of their community-based member organizations have actively advocated and campaigned for increased investments in pedestrian safety in Memphis. Innovate Memphis is a civic innovation organization that has worked over the past 10+ years on programs and projects that have focused on improving pedestrian safety and helping Memphians reimagine what is possible for the City’s transportation system. Innovate is currently leading programming that aims to increase the number of youth biking, walking, and taking the bus to school.

Complete Streets Transportation