Getting to Zero...

Sooo...many of you guys know we've been devoting lots of blog time (and headspace) to Vision Zero over the past few months (you saw our totally essential guide to the movement, right?). And likewise, many of you know that in May, we were selected by the Joules program, which matches Smart City startups like us to amazing citymakers eager to use technology to make cities more walkable, livable and sustainable (perfect match, huh?). Well, yesterday, some very exciting news was officially announced: State of Place was chosen to help the City of Durham get to Zero as part of the Innovate Durham competition!

It's Kismet Baby!

As one of only 7 startups in the Innovate Durham cohort, we couldn't be MORE stoked to be helping the City of Durham's Transportation Department with its Vision Zero strategy. It's like the stars have aligned, three times over! First, personally, many of us in the State of Place team have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a traffic collision, including Mariela, who recounted her story of mourning the loss of a teenage friend in Miami in our first installment of our Vision Zero blog series, Design for Our Lives. Also, one of our amazing interns, Devin goes to Duke and intimately understands the need for Durham to get to Zero. She's actually been our main researcher on the Vision Zero blog series and will be our main point of contact with the City (told you she's an awesome intern - and no, you can't have her! :)). Finally, as Durham's Vision Zero strategy is still being fleshed out, we have an amazing opportunity to help shape it using a holistic, urban design centric, data-driven approach and ultimately translate what's on paper into an actionable, transdisciplinary plan based on a data-driven approach. 

Getting to Zero - State of Place Style! 

So what do we have planned for Durham in the next 12 weeks (ambitious, I know!)? Here are the three critical steps we'll be embarking on with the city on our path toward Zero:

1. People-first streets guided by people-powered data.

State of Place will be training a number of community members to collect over 290 urban design features for a sample of blocks across the City of Durham's existing hotspots (areas where there have historically been a high concentration of traffic collisions) to get an initial baseline of existing walkability (State of Place Index) as well as the current built environment assets and needs (State of Place Profile).

2. When urban Design is a matter of life or death.

Next, the City of Durham will provide us with their historic traffic data and we will map that against the State of Place Index and Profile. Namely, we will develop a regression model that ties State of Place to safety rates so that we can understand how the built environment and urban design impacts collisions, fatalities, and injury rates. Specifically, we'll be able to identify the urban design features that are most critical in getting to Zero.

3. Predict to Prevent and Treat

Using our new forecasting model that ties State of Place to traffic safety rates, we will generate specific urban design recommendations that the city can apply to their existing hotspots that are most likely to get them to Zero. The City could also apply our forecasting model to actually predict near misses (areas in which there haven't yet been collisions, injuries or fatalities but have the urban design characteristics that put pedestrians at risk) and apply interventions before (preventable) tragedy ensues. Ultimately, this kind of approach, unlike many other "Smart City" approaches, will not only tell cities how they're performing today, but actually provide an (evidence-based) guide for how to become the city they aspire to be - in this case, an awesome place people love - that has achieved the ultimate Zero...

If you want to walk with us on the path to Zero or learn more about the work we are doing for Durham as part of the Innovate Durham competition, feel free to request a time to chat and/or take our software for a test walk! And stay tuned for updates on our work with Durham, culminating in the release of this new State of Place forecasting model later this Fall!

Mariela Alfonzo