Move Happy Louisiana, thus far, has proved to be incredibly successful in garnering the Louisiana community together in educating cyclists, pedestrians and runners together to educate each other and the public about alternative modes of transportation safety issues.
Since the start of Move Happy Louisiana grant work through the Knight Foundation, there have been over 40 traffic accidents regarding cyclists and 7 deaths within Louisiana. Pedestrian accidents go well over 100, with 20 deaths of pedestrians within under a year. This created an environment where people were truly concerned about safe roads in Louisiana.
While we were in developing stages of how to truly engage the community through social media to create a change for the state of Louisiana for the first portion of the year, this semester has proved to be incredibly successful for what Move Happy has accomplished.
Not only have we engaged 10,625 people through our Facebook posts where we offered a news curation surrounding issues of biking, walking and running in Louisiana, but our own stories regarding runners and cyclists within the community (“Telling Louisiana’s Story”) got people excited about others who truly want safer roads based on personal experiences. Move Happy’s Instagram also proved to be very successful as well with its posts and images.
The Move Happy Louisiana project proved to be so successful that Move Happy Louisiana connected with companies such as Lululemon and Louisiana State University’s safety outreach programs to get people engaged outside of social media as well.
It was exciting that people in the community had heard about what we were doing to create a safer environment for the state of Louisiana, but sadly, Move Happy Louisiana was chosen to speak at a vigil for LSU PhD student Zach Wood. Wood was hit by a vehicle while riding his bike and died at the scene. One thing I have learned throughout this social media creation process is that sometimes deaths and injuries are what it takes to truly get people interested in making a change.
While every community has a different way to be reached, I found that Facebook and Instagram were most successful with getting people interested in safety issues. While Move Happy used Twitter, Pinterest and a Website to provide people with more information about to help educate the public on safety issues, update the public on current events within the community involving these issues and keep people up to date with the campaign’s progress with meetings with local and state officials, their engagement levels were sub-par, most likely because many runner and cyclist communities in the state of Louisiana share their information specifically via Facebook, but Instagram as well.
The Knight Foundation project was truly a once in a lifetime experience. If it were not for the Knight Foundation, I would have not had the capability to get the Move Happy Louisiana project going if it were not for the funding opportunities the Knight Foundation offered me to assist with marketing materials and assistance for website programming.
However, I don’t plan to stop here. For the remainder of my time at LSU, Move Happy Louisiana will continue to flourish into what it has become today and continue to thrive in the community as well.
The following plans are in store for Move Happy Louisiana, despite the Knight Foundation project coming to a close:
- More “Telling Louisiana’s Story” stories: Over the next few months, I plan to continue to post stories about those who have been affected or care about safety issues for cycling, walking and running in Louisiana.
- Work with Governor Elect, John Bel Edwards on road infrastructure policies for the state of Louisiana in special sessions in the spring: After talking to Edwards in the Fall about the Move Happy project, I am hoping that we can get some work done in some of the special sessions in the spring to help road infrastructure problems around the state.
- Continuous curation of news coverage surrounding biking and pedestrian issues in Louisiana
- Work with 36 Commuting Solutions: At home in Colorado, I have a connection to 36 Commuting Solutions, a NPO geared at creating safe, alternative routes of transportation to and from Denver and Boulder. 36 Commuting Solutions has already offered great programs to potentially start in Louisiana, and I plan to continue to work with them later this month and throughout January while I am in Colorado as well.
- Community Outreach Events: I will be continuing my Saturdays and Sundays at the LSU Lakes for the remainder of my time at LSU. In the spring, I also hope to attend more running and cyclist events to get the word out about safety issues and programs in Louisiana.
- Work with LSU Student Government to reconstruct their Biking web pages: Before I attended LSU, LSU had a web page to educate students about bike safety. I have been provided with the previous interface, and there is much to revamp on the website! Move Happy has been contacted to reproduce and rebrand this website, and we are really excited to continue to help the LSU community learn more about bike safety through their own initiatives as well.
- Accident Interface program for Baton Rouge (and potentially other major cities in Louisiana if deemed successful): For months now, I have been trying to get my hands on public records for where accidents and deaths have occurred in the Baton Rouge area to create an application interface to provide the public with safe ways to commute via bike and foot. I finally found a connection with someone who can potentially provide me with this information at a low to minimal cost. After receiving the information, the interface will be released by Move Happy Louisiana.
- Safety Assessment Programs: After much work and progress, I am hoping to have Safety Assessment Programs for LSU developed so that every student that attends LSU will have to be versed in the rules of the road and the rules that apply to LSU by the Fall of 2016.
- Safety Tutorials for Cyclists: Last, but certainly not least, I have found another community partner that will potentially help with educating people about safety tips for cycling at tutorial classes in Baton Rouge.
With all of this said, while the Knight Foundation project comes to a close, there is still much work that needs to be done for the state of Louisiana when it comes to biking and pedestrian safety, and Move Happy Louisiana will still be committed to this issues well beyond the Knight Foundation.