Case Study: The Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition

Ask a Las Vegas cyclist where they were on December 10, 2020, and it is likely they can recount the moment they learned of the worst cycling tragedy in Southern Nevada’s history–when a box truck hit and killed five Las Vegas cyclists. I had worked with the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition four years earlier to develop a public education campaign, “More Space, Keep it Safe,” so I raised my hand to help deal with media in the aftermath of the tragedy. 

 As we moved through those first few weeks, the severity of the incident, the fast-changing landscape of Clark County, and the support of the public and media pointed to an opportunity. We had the chance to create meaningful change in Las Vegas and improve our city’s quality of life by making our streets safer for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. 

I got to work mapping out a three-part education campaign to inspire change and help achieve the Coalition’s goal of zero fatalities. Along with the nonprofit’s executive board, we rolled out a year-long phased campaign that included Change Lanes for Bikes. It’s the Law!, Ride Safe: Know Before You Go, and Let’s Get There Together. These campaigns won a 2021 Nevada Traffic Safety Award for Education and Media Implementation. 

BACKSTORY

For years, the number of cyclist fatalities and injuries from collisions in Southern Nevada was growing worrisome. Between 2000 and 2021, 110 cyclists had been killed on the roads in Clark County, with 10 cyclists losing their lives in 2003. (When pedestrians were added into the mix, that number of fatalities was about 1120.) These fatalities include bicycle commuters, casual riders, and more serious recreational cyclists. Even more troublesome, the statistics do not account for many other collisions of motorists and cyclists that resulted in devastating injuries. 

But there were other reasons why the city seemed to be heading for a breaking point. 

Clark County’s population skyrocketed during the pandemic. In fact, from 2015 to 2020, more than 168,000 people moved to Clark County. Also, during 2020, thousands more cyclists had hit the road thanks to the pandemic-inspired outdoor recreation boom. Local bike shops quickly sold through a year’s worth of inventory. Nationally, year-over-year bike sales were up 65 percent in 2020. This perfect storm of more drivers and cyclists pointed to a potential spike in collisions and the need for SNVBC’s three-part campaign. 

THE CAMPAIGNS

CHANGE LANES FOR BIKES. IT’S THE LAW! 

Launch Date: January 14, 2021 
Audience: Motorists and cyclists 
Details: www.snvbc.org/change-lanes

Nevada is one of 33 states to enforce a 3-Feet law and is one of five states to specify that motorists should move into an adjacent lane to the left if the lane is available when passing a cyclist. Yet most people have no idea about either law, and this campaign set out to educate motorists and cyclists about Nevada’s 3-Feet/Move Over passing Law (NRS 484B.270).

Change Lanes launched out the popular morning show, MORE that airs on FOX 5 Las Vegas. Messages have been delivered via billboards around the city thanks to corporate sponsors like Olympia Companies, developer of Southern Highlands and Skye Canyon, and the City of North Las Vegas. 

Partnerships were established with other advocacy groups and local jurisdictions to amplify the campaign’s message. Law enforcement events were held where roughly 50 citations were issued and, in some cases, over 85 drivers violated Nevada’s 3-Feet Law. These events and the campaign received ample and repeated press coverage on local television, radio and in print. 

RIDE SAFE: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Launch Date: April 27, 2021
Audience: Cyclists 
Details: www.snvbc.org/ridesafe

With a cycling boom underway in Clark County in 2021, May, which is National Bike Month, seemed the perfect time to educate new and existing bicyclists on their role in keeping themselves safe. Ride SafeKnow Before You Go identifies five critical points of cyclist safety: Protect Your Head, Be Visible, Pick Bike-Friendly Routes, Be Predictable, and Ride Defensively. 

 The campaign launched at a press conference at Las Vegas Cyclery, and later that day, Ride Safe billboards appeared along major streets and highways around the valley. 

 A consumer-facing event aimed at new cyclists, held at Lifetime Fitness, attracted over 100 people who learned about Ride Safe’s five-point strategy and had the chance to connect with more experienced cyclists. 

 On National Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 21, bicycle commuters were invited to the RTC Bike Center at the RTC’s Bonneville Transit Center in Downtown Las Vegas to pick up free safety gear. SNVBC gave out hundreds of lights, bright-colored t-shirts, helmets, and other items, including Ride Safe postcards highlighting the five points of safety. 

LET’S GET THERE TOGETHER 

Launch Date: November 4, 2021 
Audience: Las Vegas residents
Details: www.snvbc.org/lets-get-there-together

Let’s Get There Together is a forward-looking vision with a call-to-action, Look Ahead. Be Visible. End Collisions. The campaign was launched at a press conference in DTLV, including speakers like Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones, Councilwoman Olivia Diaz, and Regional Transportation Commission’s Deputy CEO David Swallow. 

The aspirational piece of the campaign challenges people to reimagine their community as a place where all road users are invested in one another’s safety. The “there” in the campaign’s title is a road user’s destination as well as a shift in mindset and behavior that will lead Southern Nevada to another end, zero fatalities.

Let’s Get There Together urges motorists to be aware of all vulnerable road users, like walkers, runners, pedestrians, people using wheelchairs and other aids, and emergency roadside first responders, in addition to cyclists.

The campaign received media coverage on local television and in print. It was praised in a Las Vegas Sun editorial that said, “Another positive step can be found in efforts like a new education campaign by the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition, which is posting public-awareness messaging on billboards, buses, and so forth. The campaign’s slogan — “Let’s Get There Together” — is well worth spreading.”

The campaign’s aspiration nature made it the perfect candidate for powerful art. I facilitated a relationship for SNVBC with local curator and longtime bicyclists Brian “Paco” Álvarez, CEO of Psionic Artworks, who enlisted local artist Shan Michael Evans to create the campaign’s artwork that’s been used for billboards, bus shelters, t-shirts, and tote bags.

I also pitched the Coalition the concept of a cycling mural in Downtown Las Vegas Arts District, resulting in two unique murals. The Let’s Get There Together mural, also created by Evans, is an “Instagram-able” wall located at the historic Corner Building (100 E. California Avenue).

To activate the community, I connected SNVBC with First Friday, a monthly celebration of art in DTLV that attracts 20,000 people. The day after the press conference, SNVBC hosted Celebrate Cycling in the Downtown Las Vegas Arts District during the November First Friday event. A second wall was secured where Evans outlined a paint-by-numbers style bicycle mural completed by the Las Vegas community. The mural is located at 1208 S. Casino Center Blvd.