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Watch for Me NC in Davidson

  • Watch for Me NC participant since: 2015
  • Population: 12,000
  • Lead agency: Davidson Police Department

Davidson is a lakeside college town located north of Charlotte that includes Davidson College and its nearly 2,000 students. Over 7% of work trips in Davidson are made by walking and the downtown has many restaurants, shops, and other businesses near the college. This creates a bustling town center with a lot of pedestrian activity and frequent interactions between motor vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. The Town of Davidson’s has seen its population nearly triple since 1990, but has maintained its commitment to fostering a welcoming and safe environment for all road users. Davidson sees the Watch for Me NC program as part of its continued commitment to pedestrian and bicycle safety.

As the lead agency, the Davidson Police Department worked closely with a number of partners, both public and private, to disseminate information about Watch for Me NC and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. On the public side, collaboration with town planners led to the installation of flashing beacons at pedestrian crossings, offering greater visibility to crossing pedestrians. The region’s Active Routes to School Coordinator and County’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator were helpful in spreading safety messages in area schools; including co-sponsoring several cycling safety clinics for children and adults. An important private partner has been a local bicycle shop, The Spirited Cyclist, which organizes group rides for cyclists of varying skill levels. The Davidson police have assisted in these events, helping to spread safety information and materials. Davidson police, in conjunction with students from Davidson College, are creating safety webinars that focus on vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle safety for employees at several large, local companies.

Education and Enforcement Activities
In addition to the education and outreach involving the local bicycle shop and large local employers, Davidson police have also provided substantial education outreach at schools. Bike and pedestrian safety education at local schools focused on the five to nine-year-old age group with the hope of instilling safe road behavior early on. With high school aged students, outreach emphasized education and awareness as operators of vehicles regarding pedestrian and bicycling issues, reaching an estimated 200 future drivers. Materials were also distributed to local hotels, businesses, community centers, and Davidson College. Additionally, the Town of Davidson has distributed information about the Watch for Me NC program through the town’s newsletter.

In downtown Davidson, police have had success issuing warning tickets and creating a “good behavior” program to positively recognize safe travel behaviors observed by officers. The “good behavior program” is possible through a collaboration between the town’s Economic Development and Police Departments, in conjunction with Watch for Me NC, which utilizes coupons or gift certificates from town businesses to reward safe and courteous behavior by citizens. The town has also conducted enforcement events that focused on providing educational information to drivers and pedestrians in the downtown business district.

Key Outcomes
Davidson’s Police, Planning, and Public Works Departments worked with NCDOT engineers and Active Routes to School to install pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs) on several median-divided roadways near schools. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the improvements, engineers observed and documented pedestrian and driver compliance before and after the installation of the beacons. The study, prepared by the NCDOT in 2015, documented a 40% increase in drivers yielding to pedestrians during activation of the pedestrian beacons. Moreover, the Davidson Police Department were inspired to explore establishing a walking school bus in several communities around local schools after attending the Active Routes to School conference as part of the Davidson’s Watch for Me NC program.

Lessons Learned
Much of the Watch for Me NC program involves community organizing. It is helpful to work with advocates that are passionate and confident speaking in front of groups and have connections with schools, businesses, and community centers. Another lesson is that it is important to document the implementation of the program (e.g., how many materials partners distributed, as well as where and how community members were engaged with program messaging) to identify effective delivery methods.

Thanks to Officer Philip Geiger and Corporal Melvin Waller, Jr. of the Davidson Police Department for their work on the Watch for Me NC program and for the information in this profile.