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Watch for Me NC Edenton

  • Watch for Me NC participant during: 2014
  • Population: 5,000
  • Lead agency: Edenton Police Department

Edenton is a rural North Carolina town in Chowan County with a waterfront shoreline that runs along the Chowan River and Edenton Bay. The town itself is home to 5,000 residents and an additional 10,000 residents live within the county. Edenton is primarily a tourist destination and is concerned about bicycle and pedestrian safety for both residents and tourists. Over 20% of Edenton’s residents earn incomes below the poverty line and 26% of residents do not own a vehicle, a rate higher than the state average. Edenton has a history of implementing pedestrian safety and education programs in order to address the high proportion of bicyclists and pedestrians within the town. Additionally, Edenton adopted the Albermarle Regional Bike Plan developed by the Albermarle Regional Planning Organization.

Edenton’s work with Watch for Me NC has primarily been conducted through public agency partners, including the Edenton Police Department, the Chowan County Sheriff, and the Edenton Town Manager. Edenton also partnered with local schools to distribute brochures, giveaways, and implement education and enforcement activities.

Education and Enforcement Activities
The Watch for Me NC program in Edenton has focused principally on education and awareness. Rather than penalizing poor road behavior, Watch for Me NC coalition members have worked to promote a positive image of safe roadway practices. Watch for Me NC partners have presented at Town Council Meetings and distributed bumper stickers at both county and municipal schools. Educational and safety materials have been distributed at public gathering such as the Cycle NC event.

Key Outcomes
Police Chief Jay Fortenbery cites the primary outcome of Edenton’s Watch for Me NC program as increased awareness. He says the program “definitely brought attention to the issue,” and all officers are now more observant of how vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists behave and interact on local roadways.

Lessons Learned

  • Encourage proper use: Initially the town really liked the education portion of Watch for Me NC, but took issue with the enforcement activities. Edenton found that a shift in messaging increased the community’s acceptance of the program. Rather than enforcing jaywalking and poor behavior, Watch for Me NC in Edenton focused on promoting proper road use and crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Every action counts: “It’s unarguable – you save one life with it and it’s worth it,” stated Chief Fortenbery. He continued, “We had a bicyclist killed recently, so we need to prevent these from happening. A program like Watch for Me NC is a great way to educate people about being safer.”

Thank you to Chief Jay Fortenbery with the Edenton Police Department for providing leadership, time and expertise that contributed to the Watch for Me NC Campaign in Edenton and the writing of this profile.