Last year, a car driver hit a César Chávez K-8 School student at the intersection of N. Portsmouth Ave and N. Willis Blvd in Portland, OR. It underscored what parents, teachers and Portland community members have been demanding for many years: increased investment in traffic safety at schools during pick up and drop off hours.

What’s more: Portsmouth’s residents already had a lot of ideas of how to improve pedestrian safety at this intersection.

Seeking to help the community take action on these ideas, Safe Routes to School advocacy professionals William Francis and Hanna Howsmon at Community Cycling Center and César Chávez teacher Sam Balto recommended this intersection as a potential quick build project for the Better Block PSU pathway program-–a partnership between the volunteer-led group Better Block PDX and the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University that pairs transportation students with community-led projects. 

“PSU students support community members with the technical aspects of infrastructure improvements–elevating and materializing their ideas by developing plans, designs, and engineering concepts. It’s a shift from the status quo with a ground-up approach, and their transportation expertise can help community members in navigating the permit process or proposing informed solutions to the city,” shared Hau Hagedorn, TREC Associate...

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Sponsor: National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP)
Research Team Lead: Christina Fink, Toole Design Group
Portland State Investigators: Christopher Monsere, Nathan McNeil and Sirisha Kothuri

One of the most common locations for motor vehicle-bicyclist crashes is at controlled intersections. Particularly dangerous is the conflict between through bicyclists and turning drivers (either left or right). Despite widespread acknowledgement of this problem, transportation engineers and planners still lack definitive guidance on how to safely and effectively design for bicyclists at intersections in the United States.

In a newly contracted project, awarded to Toole Design Group by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), a team of researchers will identify design best practices to reduce conflicts at intersections. In addition to Toole, the team includes researchers from Portland State University, Oregon State University (David Hurwitz), and Safe Streets Research & Consulting (Rebecca Sanders). Christopher...

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Sponsor: National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP)
Research Team Lead: Dr. Bahar Dadashova, Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Investigators: Christopher Monsere, Sirisha Kothuri and Nathan McNeil of Portland State University; and Toole Design Group

In recent years, there have been over 600 bicyclist fatalities annually in the United States. This sobering statistic has motivated a number of recent studies, including the recently released National Transportation Safety Board study, “Bicyclist Safety on US Roadways: Crash Risks and Countermeasures (PDF). ” That report notes that midblock crashes account for a disproportionate number of bicyclist fatalities and severe crashes, and that separated on-street bicycle facilities may reduce the likelihood of these crashes. However, there are only limited data on the safety outcomes of separated on-street bikeways in the U.S., despite their increasing popularity...

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A bicycle passes in front of a bus
Photo by Canetti
Miguel Figliozzi, Portland State University

When buses and bikes share space, it's complicated. Not only are there safety risks for cyclists, but also potential delays in bus service and stressful navigation for bus operators. The quest to increase bus speeds—and plausibly...

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In 2014, NITC published a study on racial bias at crosswalks under a Small Starts grant. Read coverage of that project in the New York Times and Washington PostThe next phase of the research is now complete, with more comprehensive findings. 

Principal InvestigatorKimberly Kahn, Portland State University
Learn more about this research by viewing the two-page Project Brief, related presentations, and the full Final Report on the Project Overview page. Hear firsthand from the PI by tuning in for the webinar on...
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Psychology teaches us that implicit biases—attitudes we hold on a level below consciousness, and may not even be aware of—can have a heavy influence on split-second decisions.

In a fast-paced activity like driving, with a lot of moving parts in a complex environment, we make those snap decisions all the time. There are obvious safety implications to this, particularly for the most vulnerable road users. That’s why TREC researchers are becoming more and more interested in studying implicit bias and social psychology as it relates to transportation behavior.

The latest report from the NITC program, Exploring Drivers’ Attitudes and Behaviors toward Bicyclists: The Effect of Explicit and Implicit Attitudes on Self-Reported Safety Behaviors, is a dissertation by NITC fellow Tara Goddard.

With a focus on driver-cyclist interactions, Goddard dives into the social psychology of roadway interactions and comes up with some interesting takeaways for practitioners and researchers. Before moving to Portland in 2011 to begin her Ph.D., Goddard was the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for the City of Davis, California, and says that it’s important to understand the mechanisms at...

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To be published later this spring is some of the first bicycle-focused research into shared space, a controversial urban design approach pioneered in the Netherlands in the 1990s.

Allison Duncan, a PhD candidate in urban studies & planning at Portland State University, earned a NITC dissertation fellowship in 2014 and used the research grant to study shared space intersections in the United Kingdom.

Shared space designs have recently been adopted at a handful of sites in the UK and others scattered across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. They are characterized by a lack of physical guidelines such as curbs, road surface markings and traffic signs to define who has the right-of-way.

The idea is for pedestrians, cars and bicycles to mingle in a common zone and use eye contact and natural communication to make sure no one gets hurt.

“Cyclists and pedestrians are supposed to be able to treat it more like a plaza and just cross where they want to, and drivers are supposed to yield,” Duncan said.

As a street design scheme, shared space isn’t exactly new. It’s more or less the way all streets were designed until the advent of cars, and is still the norm in many Asian countries where cars share the roads with a crowd of two- and three-wheeled...

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(First published by BikePortland.org)

Sue Groth’s job: use math and millions of dollars to stop injuries before they happen.

The team Groth leads at the Minnesota Department of Transportation has probably saved a few hundred lives over the last 10 years. In that time they’ve reinvented “highway safety” spending and seen traffic fatalities fall almost twice as fast as they have in Oregon and the rest of the country.

Groth is the plenary speaker at the Sept. 15 Oregon Transportation Summit hosted by OTREC at Portland State University. Michael Andersen of BikePortland spoke to her last week to talk about MnDOT’s daring decision to give up some of the “gobs of money” it gets for highway safety and hand it to local agencies instead.

What’s the nature of your work on the safety movement called Vision Zero, also known as Toward Zero Deaths?
My state happened to be one of the first to adopt it. We have had a program for over 10 years now and have had some pretty good success. We don’t have to accept the fact that 400 people a year die on the roads in Minnesota, or 33,000 nationally.

400?
Oh, I’d better give you a precise number: 387. Minnesota’s had great success. One year we actually got down to 368.

(Editor’s note: 387, it turns...

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The executive committee of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program has selected a third round of research, education, and technology transfer projects for funding. This grant is part of the University Transportation Center (UTC) program funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Research and Technology, and is a partnership between Portland State University, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Institute of Technology, and the University of Utah. The committee chose eight projects, totaling $800,000, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities. 
 
The projects are national in scope and support innovations in priority areas including public transit and active transportation. 
 
Projects selected include:
  • An analysis of the effects of commuter rail on population deconcentration.
  • A look into prioritizing pedestrians at signalized intersections.
  • A study of cyclist-vehicle interaction.
  • An evaluation of an eco-driving intervention.
The eight projects were chosen from among 20 proposals with...
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What is the highest number of deaths and serious injuries we should accept from our transportation system? For transportation agencies who have long sought to reduce traffic fatalities, a movement to eliminate them completely has gained currency.

This year’s Oregon Transportation Summit brings a strong safety theme, including plenary session and morning and afternoon workshops. Registration for the summit officially opens today.

Register or learn more about the summit, which takes place Monday, Sept. 15.

The 2014 Oregon Transportation Summit opens with a plenary session titled “Envisioning Vision Zero.” Vision Zero is the approach, initiated in Sweden, to not accept deaths or serious injuries as a tradeoff for other goals of the road network. In the United States, a national effort called Toward Zero Deaths grew out of these principles.   

Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths has been a leader among state programs, working with partners across jurisdictions and service categories across the state to address roadway deaths and injuries. Sue Groth oversees this effort as the state traffic engineer and director of the Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology for the Minnesota Department of Transportation....

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