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A cyclist pedals alongside vehicular traffic on King Street in Boone in one of the designated bike lanes provided by the town.

FILE Photo

Originally published: 2014-05-29 17:46:46
Last modified: 2014-05-29 17:47:30

Watauga picked for 'Watch for Me NC'

by Anna Oakes

North Carolina is one of the least safe states in the U.S. for walking and bicycling, with 2,400 pedestrians and 960 bicyclists hit by vehicles annually, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.

NCDOT recently announced the latest round of communities to be included in its "Watch for Me NC" awareness campaign, and Watauga County, Boone and Appalachian State University are among them.

"The Watch for Me NC campaign is a comprehensive approach to reducing bicycle and pedestrian crashes and fatalities in North Carolina," NCDOT said in a statement Wednesday. The campaign features a two-pronged approach: safety and educational messages directed toward drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists; and enforcement efforts by area police to crack down on traffic safety violations.

"It's a good campaign I think because it aims to educate everybody, not just motorists, not just cyclists," said Kathy Henson of Boone Area Cyclists. "We all need to learn how to correctly use the roads and be safe."

Campaign communities will receive assistance with printed and multi-media materials and police officer enforcement training.

Additionally, the Highway Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill will provide technical support with campaign implementation.

NCDOT received applications earlier this year from areas interested in implementing Watch for Me NC in their own communities. Scoring criteria included a community's understanding of what the Watch for Me campaign is all about and how it would work for their community, their capacity to successfully implement the campaign and their approach to implementation, NCDOT spokeswoman Julia Casadonte said.

Interim Boone Public Works Director Eric Gustaveson said training of Boone and ASU police officers will take place this summer, with the campaign scheduled for this fall.

The Boone Town Council endorsed the application in March, and the town's Public Works, Planning & Inspections and Police departments are involved in administering the program, along with representatives from ASU.

The town applied for the campaign with assistance from ASU Physical Plant Director Mike O'Connor and ASU Police Capt. Johnny Brown. Bicycling club Boone Area Cyclists submitted letters of support for inclusion in the campaign.

For more information about the campaign, visit

Bike and Ped Crash Stats

More than 2,400 pedestrians and 960 bicyclists are hit by vehicles in NC annually.
On average, about 160 pedestrians and 20 bicyclists are killed each year in NC (about 12 percent of all traffic fatalities).
Pedestrians hit at 40 mph have an 85 percent chance of dying.
65 bicycle crashes were reported in Watauga County from 2003 to 2012, with 63 resulting in cyclist injuries.
151 crashes involving pedestrians were reported in Watauga County from 2003 to 2012, resulting in four fatalities and 134 pedestrian injuries.

Source: NCDOT