Listen and Learn: A Tool for California Residents to Track Street Safety

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Street Story, a web-based mapping tool developed by the University of California Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), has been collecting data on street safety for about nine months now. Tomorrow, its developers will present a webinar to show how the tool works and how it can be used by community groups to gather and track data on things like collisions, near-misses, and safety hazards on California streets and roads.

The impetus behind developing the tool is two-fold: it gives community members a place to report problems, and allows researchers to collect data on places where problems are common.

The information on Street Stories is readily available for anyone to add to or use. The tool’s developers encourage community organizations and agencies to use it when they plan, for example for local needs assessments, transportation plans, and project proposals. SafeTREC provides workshops and assistance to groups wanting to incorporate the tool into their own outreach efforts.

The interesting page is at Street Story - Reports.

There is a link to a PDF of a starter guide:

Street Story Starter Kit -v2.pdf (74.8 KB)

The PDF actually has useful links to advice on working in community across the digital divide to get more information from everyone, rather than skewing towards demographics that don’t represent needs.

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SafeTREC keeps a blog for Street Story at Street Story | SafeTREC.

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How is Street Story information collected?

Organizations and agencies share Street Story with members of the public, then members of
the public use Street Story to provide feedback on collisions, near-misses, hazards and safe
locations. Section 3 outlines how organizations or agencies can share Street Story with their

Members of the public can also use Street Story independently.

This means there is a centralized tool to gather data. Presumably an org would embed or link to the site, encouraging citizens to submit their data, which in turn is used by everyone.

On one hand, it would be nice to have an easily deployable tool to bring in that same data from users. On the other hand, I can’t think of a single org I’ve worked with that handles user data responsibly. Chalking it up to digital literacy?

Oh, I haven’t checked to see how the data is licensed.

How can I use Street Story in my organization or agency’s community outreach efforts?

Community engagement is an important and necessary part of all transportation planning
processes, including developing community needs assessments and long-range transportation
plans, advocating and applying for funding for safety improvements, selecting the right safety
improvements for a specific area, and evaluating how well a safety improvement has worked.

This section contains six “steps for developing outreach strategies”:

  1. Decide who you want to hear from and what you want to hear about
  2. Speak with your focus communities
  3. Partner with trusted organizations
  4. Be where your focus communities are
  5. Attend and hold events that your focus communities will attend
  6. Measure how well community engagement efforts work

Each sub-section has additional info, so I’ll break those down in a bit.

Before deciding which kinds of community engagement efforts you’re going to take on, define who your focus communities are and what you they can teach you. Focus communities can be broad (e.g., everyone travelling through, living, or working within a specific corridor), or they can be very specific (e.g., residents and employees of a retirement home). It may also be helpful to set goals for the number of people you plan to reach and the information you hope to collect through community engagement efforts.

I wonder if it is normal for transportation docs to have a paragraph like this. It is similar to the obligatory, “What is an RPG?” section at the beginning of those books. However, it’s probably more interesting to consider the above. :slight_smile:

Also, one thing you learn doing outreach, Gibson is spot on: The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.


Street Story collects information about the demographics of the people participating, which may help you determine whether you are hearing from the groups you intend to reach. Street Story is designed to be used online, but is also available in a paper version for people who might not have digital access or feel more comfortable providing information or experiences on paper.

Once you’ve decided who your focus communities are and what they can teach you, think about how best to have conversations with these communities, including what languages you need to use and how to publicize your engagement efforts.

Currently, the online version of Street Story is only available in English and is available on paper in Spanish and English. We will make additional languages available on the online version of Street Story in the future.

When designing Street Story outreach, it will be important to share news about activities through commonly used media outlets in the community you’re trying to reach. For some groups, this may include social media or email, while for others, outreach in person, or local print media and paper mail may work best.

When conducting community engagement efforts, you may need to use different facilitation techniques to collect safety information.

Getting accurate feedback will require a lot more languages that English and Spanish, particularly in the Bay Area.

This particular step seems daunting, as I personally don’t know much about any given demographics’ social network usage. Partnership with folks on the ground and in the know is vital.

When engaging with communities, it is important to partner with community leaders who are known and trusted by their communities. Here are some ideas about leaders and organizations to reach out to:

  • Social service and community leaders
    • Affordable housing development managers
    • School principals or administrators
    • Food bank or health center managers
    • Senior center or retirement home managers
    • Public health departments
    • Dog walkers, post carriers, deliverers
  • Advocacy groups
    • Pedestrian, bicycle and transit rider groups
    • Community housing groups
    • Disability advocacy groups
    • Public health advocacy groups
    • Unions

Such an interesting list to start. Building a database of these orgs and folks in any given community would be valuable as a resource.

When using Street Story with partner organizations, here are a few things to think about:

  • When talking about Street Story, tell partners that the platform is free to use and the information is both publicly accessible and anonymous.
  • You can share postcard and flyer with information about Street Story.
  • When working with others to hold events, consider the most appropriate way to get people involved in using Street Story. You can share the link to the Street Story website then ask people to complete the survey on their phones, or you can bring tablets for people to complete the survey on.

Practical advice for in-person surveying.

Note: test out the tablet and mobile dimensions for the survey.

We suggest collecting information at:

  • Parking lots or garages
  • Grocery and shopping areas
  • Senior centers and retirement homes
  • Healthcare centers
  • Bus stops
  • Libraries
  • Community centers
  • Schools

Prior to an event, check whether the site has Internet access.

Well… that is certainly a list of places people are. Not sure how applicable it is for checking internet access. Also, that list doubles as places to not go unless well-lit and populated… :grimacing:

Attending and holding events to publicize Street Story may mean going to events that aren’t focused specifically on transportation safety in order to reach a wider audience. You can think about bringing Street Story to events like:

  • Sporting events
  • School events
  • Block parties
  • Digital literacy training workshops
  • Cultural events
  • County fairs

Prior to an event, check whether the site has Internet access.

I should attend block parties and digital literacy training workshops… :thinking:

Guidelines for measuring the effectiveness of community engagement efforts:

  • Who are you trying to reach with your engagement activities and how will you know when you are successful?
  • What can focus communities teach you, and how will you integrate this information in your future work?
  • How many people do you want to collect information from?

Okay, what does Street Story capture?

Street Story measures the following:

  1. Number of total entries within a jurisdiction
  2. Number of entries into each of the four categories, e.g., collisions, near misses,
    hazardous places, safe places.
  3. Demographic information
  4. Whether Street Story participants are first time users
  5. How often participants attend transportation safety-related community meetings in order to show whether Street Story is collecting information from people who are or are not already participating in other community engagement efforts.

This information can be obtained in the “See Data” option on the Street Story website.

“See Data” links to Street Story - Reports, where one may download a CSV of the same.

I’m not sure their suggested data collection corresponds with what Street Story is sharing. I wonder if there is a way to collect information along side submitting to Street Story. Probably need to check their terms, although it seems they were friendly to helpers assisting with filling out the form.

Adjacent: if we collected information, of which some subset could be submitted to Street Story, can we?

There is a “community engagement resources” section, but unfortunately the two PDF links are no longer online, and the webinar is, um, passed. (Why would someone link to a webinar in a PDF?)

The next section is notable:

Ethical considerations

When having conversations about people’s experiences, it’s important to remember that the participant is in charge, and they can decide how much information they give and when they want to end participation.

When using Street Story, the survey and data available have been approved by the University of California, Berkeley Committee for Protection of Human Subjects. Participants should not share any personally identifiable information.

“it’s important to remember that the participant is in charge, and they can decide how much information they give and when they want to end participation” ought to be a default mode. If your work doesn’t follow this practice, why not?

Addressing the digital divide

The digital divide is a term used to describe the social and economic inequity related to access to and use of the internet and technology. When using technology to collect public feedback, it’s critical to think about whether groups you are reaching out to have access to and are comfortable using web-based technologies. For more information, visit Pew Research Center’s series of articles about the digital divide​.

And that is actually a pretty decent blog category:

Worth diving deeper.

Other considerations:

There are a number of ways you can use Street Story with people who do not have access to reliable internet, data plans, smartphones or computers:

  • You can host community events in areas with free, accessible wifi.
  • You can bring devices, like tablets, that connect to the internet to community events.
  • You can host events at locations that have devices that connect to the internet, like libraries, schools or job centers with publicly available computers.
  • You can use the Street Story paper version.

There is a person’s email address throughout the document, for learning more about any given section. I believe their name is Kate Beck. No real reason to repeat it here, but there is a note to contact that address for information about the paper version of Street Story.

There’s a note about minors:

As of now, people must be 18 years or older to enter information into Street Story. In order to collect information about youth experiences using transportation systems, parents or caretakers need to complete the survey.

And we come to the end:

How can my organization or agency use Street Story data in transportation safety efforts?

Organizations and agencies can use Street Story to collect public input that is part of community needs assessments, transportation plans, grant applications for safety programs or infrastructure, or evaluations.

Street Story information is publicly available at an aggregate level at, on the “see data” tab. These maps and tables can be downloaded and used in reports, outreach materials or funding proposals.

Street Story data complements other data sources about street safety, including police-reported collisions (​ TIMS​ ), hospital-reported collisions, and built environment characteristics.

The “TIMS” refers to Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) | SafeTREC, which is an amazing resource, and worth processing on it’s own. :slight_smile: