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Nashville mayor committed to ending traffic fatalities, injuries after record deadly year

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- 2019 has been the deadliest year for pedestrians in Nashville and, for the second year in a row, community members and a group called Walk Bike Nashville are calling for change.

This year, Mayor John Cooper has committed his administration to an ambitious goal of eliminating pedestrian deaths in the city through a campaign called Vision Zero.

“Thirty-two people killed is a dramatic increase from 22 people just last year and 12 people a decade ago in 2009,” says Walk bike Nashville Director of Advocacy and Communications Lindsey Ganson.

On Saturday, community members gathered to remember friends who are no longer with us.

This problem, however, is also personal for several council members.

“I lost a sister in law when she was hit by a car riding a bike,” says District 16 Councilwoman Ginny Welsch.

“When I was 13 years old, I was hit by a car on my bicycle and nearly lost my leg,” District 7’s Emily Benedict recalls.

Now, they're calling for the city to step up.

“In moments of crisis, we don't need hopes and prayers form our elected leaders; we need immediate action,” Ganson said.

Mayor John Cooper says Nashville is currently No. 1 in the state for injury crashes.

“This is the kind of No. 1 we don't want to be,” Cooper added.

He says one of the most substantive ways to honor those who have died is to make a lasting change to our transportation infrastructure, which is why he is committing to Vision Zero.

“It is a strategy that will seek to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries in Nashville and Davidson County,” Cooper says.

Walks Bike Nashville executive director Nora Kern says, rather than blaming someone for every crash, we must focus on preventing them instead.

“If you have a lot of people dying in the same place, it's not any individual's fault alone, it's also the fault of the street itself,” Kern says. “So, we should be looking at that systemic approach; how can we change the streets themselves?’”

The group is, however, excited about new bike lanes that have gone up on Division Street, praising their safety by having plastic bollards.

So far this year, 5 pedestrians have been killed in Nashville, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which is two fewer than last year.

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The most recent fatality happened Thursday: police say a woman was trying to cross I-24 just after midnight when she was hit by several vehicles.

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