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The National Academies

NCHRP 07-31 [Anticipated]

State DOT Usage of Bicycle and Pedestrian Data: Practices, Sources, Needs, and Gaps

  Project Data
Source: AASHTO Council on Active Transportation
Funds: $800,000
Staff Responsibility: Stephan A. Parker
Fiscal Year: 2021

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected in October 2021. The project statement will be available on this site. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

State DOTs need data to inform the decision-making process, from statewide and regional planning, to project-level planning and development, to the evaluation of completed projects. However, data sources are not always available for a variety of reasons: agencies might not know of their existence; data collection may be cost-prohibitive; or existing data that is mainly utilized for other purposes has not yet been identified as usable for active transportation purposes. Data could be a powerful tool for agencies when determining which bicycle and pedestrian corridors/projects are most critical and, once built, clearly quantifying their impacts. There are many facets to state DOT usage of active transportation data. Some state DOTs use third-party data providers although those data sources have limitations and may not always be representative of a state’s larger population. When states collect their own information, they need the resources to gather, clean, maintain, and update the data and the IT resources to store it. States also need up-to-date geospatial data that indicates where sidewalks, bicycle facilities, and other infrastructure is located. It is also not enough to have geospatial data noting the physical location of a piece of infrastructure; for active transportation purposes, the condition of the infrastructure is important, especially when considering ADA requirements. On a larger scale, data could also identify populations more likely to utilize active transportation infrastructure and potentially aid in determining latent demand for the construction of such infrastructure. Clear data related to existing active transportation facilities would also help states quantify the effectiveness of these facilities and aid in pre- and post-construction analysis. If the data were standardized across states, the data could facilitate direct comparison and analysis on a state-to-state or national level. Active transportation data could also be combined with other data sets (including those focused on environment, equity, environmental justice, and public health, etc.) for additional analysis.

States would benefit from research that summarizes the existing literature on active transportation data and catalogs relevant sources and data sets related to active transportation. Furthermore, innovative, cost-effective data use cases could provide scalable examples among state DOT practitioners. The research should also capture any untraditional or unusual sources or applications of data that may be primarily for other purposes but could be adapted or integrated into active transportation analysis. This research would inform practitioners on the expanse of available data, which may be unconventional, such as police and hospital reports; capture information on how peer agencies are identifying and using data, identify gaps for future research, and provide recommendations (identification, collection, cleaning, utilizing, analyzing, standardizing, storing, funding, privacy and legal concerns, etc.) Submitting a data-related research problem statement is part of AASHTO’s Council on Active Transportation’s work plan and the Council’s number one priority.

The research proposed in this problem statement complements ongoing research. In particular, this problem statement expands the scope of NCHRP Project 20-05/Topic 50-10 to include bicycling data and conduct research aimed at identifying the data needs and wants of state DOTs and the gap between them and what is available. NCHRP Project 08-108, Developing National Performance Management Data Strategies to Address Data Gaps, Standards, and Quality, does not include any information on data related to active transportation. This proposed research will dive deeper into data than the more general NCHRP Project 20-123(02), Research Roadmap for the AASHTO Council on Active Transportation. It will also build upon FHWA’s Roadway Data Improvement Program (RDIP), which seeks to improve the quality of states’ roadway data. Under the Roadway Safety Program, FHWA also prepares Roadway Safety Data Capabilities Assessments for states that include data components.

The objectives of this research are to determine how state DOTs are using data and to identify data sources, gaps, and recommendations on the next steps to develop the data and tools state DOTS need. To fulfill these objectives, the research contractor will need to complete the following:
1. Summarize/synthesize existing research on active transportation data.
2. Survey state DOTs to understand the current state of data sources and uses, as well as unmet needs.
3. Catalog active transportation data sets, common attributes, uses, including both well-known sources (e.g., Strava Metro) and less utilized sources (e.g., police reports, hospital reports, etc.).
4. Conduct a gap analysis between the data that state DOTs need/want versus what is currently available/being used.
5. Develop recommendations on next steps for developing, standardizing, maintaining, and storing the identified data, information, models, and/or tools.

The research will present an urgently needed inventory of available data sources and identify any gaps based on direct feedback from state DOTs. Practitioners will gain valuable insight into how their peers are utilizing data and receive recommendations to bolster data in their agencies. This research will advance the technical expertise of state DOTs.

Active Transportation data are used by many departments within a state DOT.   Planning, engineering, safety, asset management, and maintenance all could utilize the research findings. State DOTs would need to determine how the findings could be applied and/or scaled to their agencies. They would also need to identify how they would obtain the data, whether through subscription services or manual collection, and how they would clean, maintain, and store the data given budget constraints. Presentations, webinars, and case studies are effective methods for communicating findings.

Given the continued need to support and evaluate facilities for active transportation, there is an important need for research regarding the injury data monitoring/surveillance systems in place and opportunities to further enhance these systems’ abilities to document health and safety outcomes, particularly for active travel modes.
---------------- Combine with Problem Number:  2021-B-44 ------------------
Practices and Recommendations in Reporting and Integrating Non-Fatal Injury Data for Active Travel Modes

The objectives of this research are to assess the state of the practice regarding pedestrian and bicycle injury reporting and integration systems, critically examine existing methods, demonstrate best practices, and identify future data improvement needs. Possible tasks to be completed as part of this research may include:
1) State of the practice scan: Perform a systematic scan of states (and possibly select regions/cities) to determine:
a) To what degree states are aware of and adhering to the Consensus Recommendations for Pedestrian Injury Surveillance and using similar or standard and comparable definitions of pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users for non-fatal injury reporting? For emerging travel modes where standard definitions do not exist (such as e-scooters and other forms of micro-mobility), what definitions are being used to track non-fatal injury reporting?
b) What methods and data sources, if any, are states and cities using to measure injuries that are not reported in police crash report systems, including falls and crashes not directly involving vehicles that occur in the right-of-way and could be attributable to the built environment or used for safety and health planning purposes?
c) To what degree are states or cities linking different data sources (such as police-reported crashes with emergency departments, trauma registries, or EMS data), to establish more integrated reporting systems, and what linkage methods are used?
d) To what degree do state-level incentives, agency or project requirements, or legislation drive reporting practices and can help explain differences across states?
2) Validation/critical examination of practice: Perform data program assessments and/or actual data analyses to determine the extent to which existing data collection and linkage practices and data sources can accurately capture non-fatal injuries amongst pedestrians, bicyclists and other micro-mobility users (such as e-scooters etc.). In particular, identify practices that may lead to disparities in the data (e.g., under-reporting among people of varying ethnicities, languages, birthplaces of origin, housing status, age). It is possible that this research project could also lead to the development of methods to adjust for under-reporting.
3) Demonstration of best practice: Create a case example of a current agency best practice around non-fatal injury data monitoring and linkage that demonstrates the value in investment in data linkage and highlights how agency practices leverage data improvements for various purposes. Acknowledge the limitations and challenges identified in Task 2 and make recommendations for future advancements.

In 2018, 6,283 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, 17% of all traffic fatalities and the highest since 1990. This is a 3.4% increase in pedestrian fatalities from 2017. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities increased by 32 percent in the ten-year period between 2008 and 2017. During that same time period, total traffic fatalities decreased by 0.8 percent. Studies have shown that pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities represent only the “top of the iceberg” with respect to all crashes involving these modes.

For every state Highway Safety Improvement Program, safety projects are prioritized using a formula that incorporates the number of crashes experienced or predicted along a roadway. Pedestrian and bicycle projects are systematically under-valued in these processes when, as prior research indicates, more than half of all pedestrian/bike injuries are unreported in the police data systems used by state safety programs. Improved data to measure non-fatal injuries will vastly enhance the validity of the tools applied by state DOTs to prioritize their safety investments.

Linking and integrating data has been identified as a key goal of TRB’s Health and Transportation Committee for a number of years, and this Research Problem Statement builds upon a prior Research Need Statement that was submitted in 2012 and has yet to be funded (Estimating the Benefits of a More Complete Pedestrian Injury Reporting System, produced by the Pedestrian Committee, ANF10).

This research will identify states that are creating model programs; critically examine successes and challenges in collecting and linking data to capture non-fatal injuries for pedestrians, bicyclists, non-and other micro-mobility users; and develop new methods and/or recommendations for enhanced, integrated data systems that can measure these impacts for active travelers. It can be used immediately by agency decision makers that fund research regarding data collection and data quality improvement programs, both in state DOTs and State Highway Safety Offices.

The research would help identify and prioritize projects within certain funding programs. The audience for this research are state safety officers, staff of Highway Safety Improvement Programs, TAP programs, members of traffic safety partners (advocacy groups, health departments, departments of public safety, etc.), and pedestrian-bike groups. In addition, members of AASHTO committees/councils on Active Transportation, Safety, and Data Management, as well as members of TRB Committees ANF10 (Standing Committee on Pedestrians) and ANF20 (Standing Committee on Bicycle Transportation) would play an active role in the research process, as well as in the dissemination of the final research products.

Results of the research would be disseminated through TRB, AASHTO, and/or FHWA webinars, through focused articles in national and state-level publications, and through presentations at venues such as TRB and AASHTO meetings. Communications products to highlight the research could also be distributed electronically to state and local agencies and through national organizations such as the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The AASHTO Special Committee on Research and Innovation has combined these two problem statements and the eventual NCHRP panel will determine the focus of the combined project.

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