Flipping the Script: Understanding Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety in Chapel Hill-Carrboro

By Emma Vinella-Brusher, Angles Managing Editor

Each year, over 3,000 pedestrians and 850 bicyclists are hit by vehicles here in North Carolina, making our state one of the least safe states for walking and biking[i]. Last month, the UNC Department of City & Regional Planning and Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety were joined by Tom Flood of Rovélo Creative and Arleigh Greenwald aka Bike Shop Girl for a free, two-day workshop on addressing this crisis.

A “ghost bike” sits at Franklin and Graham in Chapel Hill, in honor of cyclist Nick Walton who passed away earlier this year (Source: author)

The April 22-23 Flipping the Script on Traffic Violence event featured a guided bike ride and walk, a facilitated discussion about marketing/storytelling, and a workshop to develop marketing content. Students, academics, professionals, and elected officials gathered together to learn how to better communicate the critical issue of traffic violence towards our most vulnerable road users.

Flipping the Script kicked off at 1 PM Friday with a casual bicycle ride through the streets of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and the UNC campus. Participants covered ~4.5 miles and stopped to photograph and discuss traffic safety concerns along the way. This was followed by a one-mile walking tour of downtown Chapel Hill, for another opportunity to identify safety challenges for pedestrians and bicyclists in the area. The day concluded with a facilitated debrief of both tours and discussion of opportunities to advocate for and improve local road safety.

The bike route, starting at Wilson Park in Carrboro and ending at New East on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus (Source: author)
Walking tour participants critique a Chapel Hill pedestrian crossing (Source: Tom Flood)

Day 2 of Flipping the Script consisted of an afternoon hands-on workshop, where participants practiced crafting effective media messages about road safety challenges. The group developed messaging around the safety concerns facing pedestrians and cyclists to share with the public and local elected leaders in the hopes of making our streets safer for all.

Tom Flood shows participants the language used by the media to describe crashes resulting in injury or death (Source: Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety)

Thank you to Tab Combs, Seth LaJeunesse, Tom Flood, Arleigh Greenwald, and everyone else in putting on this fantastic event!

[i] Watch for me NC, “Crash Facts.”

Featured image: Bicyclists participate in the 2022 Durham Ride of Silence to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways, courtesy of author

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