CARY, N.C. (WNCN) - Every year, hundreds of people are hurt or killed while walking or biking on North Carolina roadways.
One of them, Lori Cove, was the transportation director for the town of Cary. She suffered a devastating brain injury when a hit-and-run driver slammed into her bike in 2016.
Monday, the state Department of Transportation began its "Summer Watch for Me NC" program to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe. It's a message Lori's friends said is vitally important.
Tom Wood and Tom Foster were both on the road with Cove the night she was hit. It was Oct. 17, 2016.
"Lori has to be, or was, one of the most active people ever. Just a couple weeks before this happened, she completed back-to-back IronMan triathlons in Chattanooga and in Spain," Wood recalled.
Cove's life revolved around the road. She biked, she ran, and she served as Cary's transportation director.
"She was amazing," said Cary Public Works Director Scott Hecht. "She built half this city with her transportation background, engineer from Clemson. She's just bubbly and smiley and I just had the best time hanging out with her."
Hecht worked with Lori for 15 years and considered her a close friend. He was devastated to learn she'd been badly hurt in a crash.
"It was heartbreaking. She did all she could to survive that night. She was not expected to live that night, and she's been fighting ever since," he said.
Her friends visit her from time to time at the nursing facility outside Charlotte where she's recovering, but her brain injury is severe.
"It's very hard," Hecht said. "I don't know what the prognosis holds for her, but I know it's a long, long, long, slow recovery — if any."
"I just feel pain; it hurts," Wood added. "She was one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet. I've known her for 20 years, and it just kills me."
They know Cove will likely never return to her job or her bike, but they hope everyone on the road will pay extra attention and keep the streets safer for cyclists.
The driver who hit Cove was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.