Nashville, TN: Complete Streets Leadership Academy case study

With a newly adopted Vision Zero plan in place, Metro Nashville joined the Complete Streets Leadership Academy to strengthen partnerships and test out new paths to achieving safer streets. Working together to improve crossings for people walking allowed them to strengthen their relationships with local partners and provide quick, tangible benefits to a community that was ready for change. Read the full case study in the Complete Streets Leadership Academies Report and explore the other case studies here.

Project Snapshot

As the participants from Nashville combed through potential sites, one location stood out among the rest due to the high pedestrian traffic along the route and the known equity concerns in the area: Dickerson Pike and Queen Avenue. Despite known safety concerns, the project area hasn’t seen major transportation improvements in 30 years. A quick-build project was a way to demonstrate to the people who live around Dickerson Pike—who are primarily low-income and people of color—that their safety and accessibility are a priority for both local and state decision-makers.

To reclaim pedestrian space, the Nashville team painted walkways along the east side of Dickerson Pike and the north side of Grizzard Avenue, a roadway on the west that dead-ends into Dickerson. The painted walkway on the east side of Dickerson included a mural by local artist Charles Key, who used affordable and easily accessible materials including colored concrete seal applied with roller brushes to make the art attractive and functional. Adding art further drew attention to the changes along Dickerson, both attracting pedestrians and signaling drivers to slow down and watch for people walking.

The Nashville Department of Transportation (NDOT) also made multiple changes to the long crosswalk to make it more comfortable and safer to traverse. A pedestrian refuge in the center turn lane, painted with bright yellow paint and lined with flex posts, shortened the length people needed to cross. NDOT also refreshed the crosswalk with thermoplastic and replaced the school bus crossing signage with pedestrian crossing signage to match current needs.


The impact of the project was measured through observations, data collection, and engagement. Highlights include:
Quick builds allowed NDOT to test out safety improvements on a temporary basis, giving them an opportunity to boost buy-in within their agency for more permanent change to roadways. These low-cost projects were also easily replicable, so for a relatively low lift, NDOT built momentum on safety improvements throughout the metro area.
Communication with Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) helped build relationships with different regional engineering teams. These relationships will make it easier for NDOT to embark on design solutions for state-owned roads in the future.
NDOT also enjoyed stronger communication within their own DOT, as multiple team members worked together to identify hurdles and come up with solutions.

Key takeaways

Dedicated time and space can improve partnerships and foster future collaboration. Nashville metro’s quick-build demonstration project was an important step toward building a stronger partnership between NDOT, TDOT, and the community, which has sparked the potential for long-term Vision Zero improvements at the Dickerson and Queen intersection. This exercise testing creative, temporary solutions also sets a strong foundation for future quick builds in the metro area.

Build upon existing momentum. While many intersections in the Nashville metro area would benefit from safety interventions, partners had been working at the Dickerson and Queen intersection long before NDOT started their project there, creating a strong foundation of knowledge and community input for the demonstration. NDOT was also able to draw upon existing momentum for change from TDOT, which has identified multiple Nashville locations for Pedestrian Safety Initiative Projects.

A lot can be learned with some striping tape and a few cones. NDOT benefited by using tactical urbanism in advance of their quick build to create an even deeper understanding of their project site and the needs of the surrounding community. The data they collected, in addition to community input, helped create a more successful demonstration project.

Community members will notice when they feel safer, and they’ll want that feeling everywhere. Though outside the scope of NDOT’s demonstration project, community members offering feedback frequently pointed to the nearby successful HAWK signal at Dickerson and Sunset Avenue, which provides a flashing signal when pedestrians want to cross. This community input is a testament to how effective change can inspire community members to advocate for similar improvements elsewhere. Hopefully, improvements from the quick build will have a similar impact.

The Complete Streets Leadership Academy report cover featuring an animated complete street, with a bike lane, bus lane, and sidewalk surrounding a street with lots of active people.In 2022, Smart Growth America launched the Complete Streets Leadership Academies in Alaska, California, Connecticut, and Tennessee to equip and train local agencies and state departments of transportation to collaborate, innovate, and commit to making changes together to address safety on these dangerous state-owned roads. Cohorts were selected to plan and implement “quick-build” demonstration projects, a way to pilot and test new ideas and street designs to activate streets and better support walking, biking, and rolling.

Read the report

This program and report was developed with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (Cooperative Agreement CDC-RFA-OT18-1802). The views presented in this product do not necessarily reflect the views and/or positions of CDC.


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