Asheville officials to launch pedestrian and bicycle safety campaign

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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watch_for_me_asheville_2015Important info, y’all. Press release:

Asheville’s multimodal mindset is one of its assets. But as we move toward environmentally and healthy practices of bicycling and walking to our destinations people sometimes find themselves in the crosshairs at motorist intersections.

Add to that equation the brisk tourist traffic and a vibrant busking scene in downtown Asheville. Sometimes our sidewalks appear to be spilling over.

Ensuring the safety of all parties moving around the City is why Asheville has joined the NCDOT’s Watch for Me NC pedestrian and bicyclist safety campaign. From August through November, the City will launch an intensive public education campaign that will then be paired with vigorous enforcement of pedestrian safety laws.

In a five-year period from 2008-2012, the City of Asheville had the highest pedestrian accident rate among the largest ten metro areas in the state, according to an NCDOT report. Our participation in Watch for Me NC is designed to reverse that trend.

The City’s Transportation and Police Departments plan to do that through a public education campaign and targeted law enforcement to educate and reinforce compliance with the laws.

The City’s Watch for Me campaign will kick off during National Night out, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4, at Pack Square Park. We will have a table at the event with informational materials.

The campaign coincides with the start of school in August so student pedestrian safety messages will be incorporated in the campaign.

How it will work
Tiered law enforcement will include a brief warning period, followed by active ticketing. In advance of the campaign launch, area traffic units received targeted training this month at A-B Tech. Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams is aware of the campaign and the charges it may bring.

Know the laws

When you’re driving:

· Yield to people in crosswalks.

· Be prepared for bicyclists to take the whole lane – it’s their right if they need it.

· Pass bicyclists only when it is safe to do so and be sure to give them plenty of room.

When you’re walking:

· Obey all pedestrian traffic signals.

· Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from the roadway as you can.

· Look for cars in all directions before crossing a street or parking lot.

When you’re bicycling:

· Obey all traffic signals and come to a full stop at “stop” signs and red lights.

· Ride in the direction of traffic.

· Use front and rear lights and reflectors at night.

· Use hand signals to indicate when turning.

Find more safety tips at Look for additional safety educational materials in coming weeks from the City of Asheville. Most importantly, slow down and pay attention for safety, whether you are walking, bicycling or driving.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. David Sanderson August 5, 2015

    I find it ironic that motorists seem to see every bicyclist that violates a traffic law but they never see the bicyclists that they hit and kill.

  2. Chris August 3, 2015

    This whole debate really gets a lot of our blood pressure rising. Im relatively new to asheville, so here is a perspective with fresh eyes. Asheville has, through a combination of topography, and some fairly obvious periods of shortsightedness in urban planning, some of the most obsurd streets to drive, walk or bike on, anywhere. Cars parked facing both ways? Two way traffic that is forced to blindly hide behine said cars, because roads are too narrow for passing? Virtually no sidewalks outside of downtown? Lack of bike lanes at large? The fact is this disasterous situation puts undue stress on all of us trying to get anywhere and makes for dangerous behavior. Im all for encourageing self policing and personal responsibility, but until the real problem is addressed its just going to get worse. The town will continue to grow. Money needs to be spent, real money, to prepare for the inevitable.

  3. Matt August 1, 2015

    I’m around town most of my days and can’t think of times that I’ve seen a cyclist blow past a stop sign or a red light. That would be insane. I am used to seeing cyclists follow the rules about as much as motorists, so I can’t help but think the more opinionated folks on here are just eager to take things personally.

    The only thing I don’t see cyclists do sometimes is give clear signals about their intentions at an intersection. That’s tricky. It’s requires taking a hand off the the handle bars in the middle of traffic. Not everyone is up for that.

    Bike lanes and bike trails…what a sweet thing they are. After spending a year in Eugene, OR, I know what is possible now. But I know it’s hard to retro fit bike lanes in an old mountain town like Asheville.

    1. jen August 1, 2015

      I’m sorry but I’ve almost never seen a bicyclist stop with traffic or obey the rules of the road. I’ve almost hit many people for riding in and out of traffic.

      1. Big Al August 2, 2015

        My experience splits the difference: for every cyclist I see obeying the laws of the road that apply to them just as they do to cars, I see an equal number who use the road UNTIL they come to an intersection, at which time they hop the curb and become sidewalk pedestrians and continue over the crosswalk instead of waiting for the light as they should. Usually these “cross-dressers” are not wearing a helmet either.

      2. Matt August 3, 2015

        Well, I guess I’ll start to pay more attention after this discussion. Maybe I’ll start to see what ya’ll are seeing.

    2. Tim August 3, 2015

      Or the dude I saw on Merrimon Ave blow thru the red light I was sitting at and wearing headphones, too.

  4. Annon July 31, 2015

    WELL DESIGNED LOGO! Looks a lot nicer than the ASHEVILLE logo.

  5. chris July 31, 2015

    Hilarious that all of comments are about bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ behavior, with no consideration given to the absolutely horrid driving skills of Ashevillians. I have seen the most moronic, inconsiderate and downright criminal driving behavior here in this town. Yet you all want to pile on the people _not_ wielding the multiton weapons of mass destruction.

    1. Sean August 1, 2015

      I think the issue lies in the overall rates. If motorists violated the law with the same frequency (or percentage) as that of pedestrians and cyclists, it would be absolute pandemonium.

      If you had the ability to sit at a light-controlled traffic intersection downtown for eight straight hours, and counted the number of stoplight violations for all persons/bicycles/pedestrians negotiating that intersection, you would see a huge disparity between the vehicle drivers and everyone else. The fact is that a small percentage of drivers will run the light, as opposed to a much larger number of the latter. Do motorists violate traffic laws? Yep. But don’t sit here and try to argue to me that the rates are the same.

      1. Mike August 3, 2015

        As long as we’re sitting downtown for eight straight hours, let’s bring along a radar gun and count the motorists who go 5-10 mph above the posted speed limit (20 mph in most of downtown), the number who change lanes without signalling, the number who speed to catch a yellow light, etc. Then let’s move out of downtown and do the same thing for another eight hours. I think the rates are going to be about the same as for cyclist violations. And then let’s compare the potential danger and damage from a cyclist rolling a “California stop” to your average 2-ton vehicle’s potential.

        Yes, cyclists need to obey the law, and we probably need to be more demonstrative of it because of the road rage idiots who are inconvenienced for a few seconds when in the vicinity of bicycles. But the car driving majority (and most of the cyclists are also drivers) needs to remove the beams in our own eyes before we worry about the specks in bike/ped eyes.

        1. Sean August 3, 2015

          OK. I’m down. What do I get if I win?

          1. Mike August 4, 2015

            You get to bask in the glow of your superiority and cast a look of haughty derision at any driver who goes 21 in a 20 zone or any cyclist who performs an Idaho stop in any state other than Idaho.

    2. cwaster August 1, 2015

      Totally agree- Asheville drivers are the worst. Turn signals completely optional, tailgating the norm…

    3. jen August 1, 2015

      it is because many of these awful drivers are transplants from bigger cities. traffic was never like this 10 yrs ago.

  6. Transplant July 31, 2015

    Bike lanes, continuous sidewalks, visible traffic signs, sensible traffic patterns, any speed enforcement; these would any and all be a great leap forward in the safety of everyone and the relations between various factions of commuters. There is a civic planning crisis here that can not be solved by education campaigns alone.

  7. Unaffiliated Voter July 30, 2015

    what about classes to teach pedestrians HOW to cross the street WITH the traffic lights ???

    sorry, but I have never seen the beat as I have here of
    people NOT KNOWING HOW to cross a street correctly!
    but with a city of slackers who cares, right?

  8. Kimboronni July 30, 2015

    As a bicyclist and pedestrian, I stop at lights and signs because: I value my own life, I value the life and safety of others, and I want to set a good example for young people and newbies to multi-modal transportation.

    The hardest stop to make in town is at the bottom of the hills leading into the RAD, but even those can be done.

    Nothing makes my day more than seeing fellow bikers follow the rules of the road as we demand and practice our own rights! Well, maybe cars stopping at the cross walk… that’s a serious gold-star!

    1. burnsey July 31, 2015

      Double Gold Star. Agreed, I so much appreciate seeing cyclist follow the rules of the road.

  9. b.c.w. July 30, 2015

    It would also be prudent to remind pedestrians that the only truly acceptable place to cross a street with a marked crossing is… well… IN THE CROSSWALK. Also, you may only cross traffic when the light indicates it is safe to do so, and you must look before stepping out into the street. Crossing against the light into traffic at your own leisure does not give you the right to bitch and moan at drivers who are trying to get through the intersection with the light is green in their direction of travel. Takes an effort on all sides to ensure that everyone is safe.

    1. smytty August 1, 2015

      Crosswalks are supposed to be protected zones for pedestrians. In other words, if you are zipping down Haywood Rd and someone puts their foot into the crosswalk, you are legally obligated to slam on the brakes.

      Now, I wait for a pause in traffic to attempt to cross, but I have had people in the far lanes literally speed up to try and “beat me” to the far side of the crosswalk – usually never making eye contact.

      Yes, pedestrians ought to only cross at crosswalks, but even there you are taking your life in your hands. It is little consolation to me, knowing that if I were struck by a car that the driver would get a ticket.

      1. b.c.w August 3, 2015

        I agree with you. The crosswalk is a protected area for pedestrians to cross, and that is where one should cross the street. However, pedestrians need to exercise caution and good judgment to look before stepping into the crosswalk and hopefully make eye contact with drivers who may be approaching. It takes all parties involved to make things safe. My point was that a lot of pedestrians *don’t* look before stepping into crosswalks, and cross against the light at lighted crosswalks. There’s also a lot of very, very slow walking happening and even stopping in the middle of crosswalks. Move with purpose and clear the road as quickly as possible. Additionally, especially in downtown, people jaywalk at all points along the roads and it makes it very dangerous for everyone. Equal responsibility is due on drivers and pedestrians.

    2. Foghat August 3, 2015

      Actually, according to the North Carolina DOT guidebook, there is an implied crosswalk between all street corners.

  10. indie July 30, 2015

    It would be far easier to give a prize to the first bicyclist that actually stops at a red light or stop sign.

    1. Woody July 30, 2015

      Ooh, yes, me! I’ve been stopping my bike at red lights AND stop signs for years. What prize do I get? Do you need my address?

      Thanks for the gross generalization, Indie.

    2. luther blissett July 30, 2015

      indie gets the prize for trotting out the laziest canard about cyclists. It’s not an especially good prize, because it’s a tedious thing to say. indie should try not to sound like one of those pickup drivers who thinks cyclists are casting aspersions on their manhood.

      It’s all a matter of mutual respect. Drivers need to respect cyclists; cyclists need to respect pedestrians; pedestrians need to respect the roads. That said, it would help if APD spent less time on Biltmore ticketing buskers and more time ticketing drivers who speed at 40 MPH.

      1. indie July 31, 2015

        How about cyclists respect Drivers? You know like when you sneak past all the cars by passing on the right of a 2 lane road and then jump the light to get back in front of the cars. Then you can blame the cars for passing you dangerously (again) because By God you have the same right to the lane.

    3. burnsey July 31, 2015

      It would be easy. I do it everyday.


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