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National Bike Month: Vision Zero, and a new tool evaluates media coverage of bicycle and pedestrian deaths

The Terry Benjey Bicycling Foundation h
The Terry Benjey Bicycling Foundation
The Terry Benjey Bicycling Foundation
The Terry Benjey Bicycling Foundation holds events to teach kids and adults alike about cycling safety, alongside Cape Fear Cyclists.

May is National Bike Month, a celebration of cycling in the United States and a month of advocacy to protect cyclists from dangers on the road. WHQR reporter Kelly Kenoyer interviewed Adrienne Harrington from the local nonprofit the Terry Benjey Bicycling Foundation about cyclist safety and Vision Zero in the Cape Fear Region.

Adrienne Harrington is the vice president of the Terry Benjey Bicycling Foundation, which was founded in honor of a long time cyclist and cycling advocate in the Cape Fear region who died while cycling in 2013. The Foundation was formed to perpetuate his vision and goals for cycling in the Cape Fear region.

Kelly Kenoyer: So, do you mind telling me what Vision Zero is? And a little bit about what you're hoping to see change in this community on that basis?

Adrienne Harrington: Yes. So Vision Zero is an initiative that is, honestly, nationwide, there are several states that are involved,North Carolina is one of them. So that aims to eliminate all roadway deaths, like all of them, zero deaths on our roads, and injuries as well, using the data driven prevention strategies. So by North Carolina being a part of this program, we have all these resources to figure out how to create safer roadways, and this is safer roadways for everybody:, whether you are a cyclist, whether you are pedestrian, or whether you are a driver. So with those resources, that's where all these communities are like, 'Hey, we have these resources, we need to get the word out about these resources, so people know how to use them.'

KK: One of the things that you shared with me one of these resources was anew tool for analyzing how the media covers crashes. Can you talk a little bit about this new tool?

AH: Sure. So one of the resources that comes out of the Vision Zero toolkit is a guide for how media can report some of these crashes. So when a crash occurs, of course, there's a location, there's usually two parties involved. But there's a lot more to the story than what gets reported traditionally. So you know, an example that I use is there was a crash on NC 210, which is a row that in most places is two lanes. And, you know, the question was, 'was, oh, my gosh, why is this cyclist even there in the first place,' whereas, you know, there's parts of 210, they're actually dedicated bike routes. And either way, bicyclists by law are to be operating and be treated as a vehicle. So most roads are supposed to be able to handle bicyclists. Except major interstates — not so much.

But all that to say the cyclist did have a right to be there. And the cyclists should be operating as a vehicle and other vehicles should be treating the cyclist as a vehicle as well. So making sure that, when those crashes occur, that that story is told in a way that doesn't put the blame on the cyclist for being there in the first place.

KK: You know, I actually rana WECT article through this thing, about the most recent crash that involved a pedestrian or cyclist in this community. And it was just a stub: it talked about how the crash involved a cyclist and a car on Eastwood Road near Cardinal Drive. And basically, this tool said they did a good job, not calling it an accident, not blaming the cyclist for what happened. Everything seems great, except the framing was not good. And so it gets an F.

Which I thought was pretty interesting, because it pointed out that crashes are not happening in a vacuum. It's not just that this happened on some road, it's a road that doesn't have appropriate infrastructure has high speeds. Or there's other components that play into how this road is designed that make it more dangerous. I did a Newsroom episode about this a few years ago that focused on how Market Street is the most dangerous street in Wilmington for cyclists and pedestrians, it kills the most people, injures the most people. And what is it about Market Street that's so dangerous? There's something about the way Market is designed that makes it more dangerous. So what can we do about that?

AH: Yes, such a good question. And so you're absolutely right, there is not one factor that creates these crashes. If there was then we would just fix that one factor and we would not have any more crashes. The League of American Bicyclists is a really good resource. They have five E's that help create a safe environment, particularly for bicyclists. So one of them is equity and accessibility. Another one is engineering, so how was the road designed and down to those fine details, and so those fine details can make a difference. And then education. So teaching people the rules of the road, whether you are a cyclist, a pedestrian or a driver, you know, understanding the rules of the road. Education is a huge component. And then encouragement. You know, there's a lot of people who even though you're like, 'hey, you know, we're gonna build this facility.' But we're still afraid to use it because I still don't know the rules of the road. So getting out and encouraging people as well. So there's just a lot that goes into creating those safe spaces.

KK: Thank you so much for coming. Ms. Harrington. It was a pleasure talking to you.

AH: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.