SafeTREC Spotlight: Julia Griswold

Safety is just one element of sustainability. We need research that supports the transition to a sustainable transportation system made for all road users.
Julia Griswold
July 27, 2020

Welcome back to the SafeTREC Spotlight Series where we highlight a SafeTREC team member and share their stories, work and interest in the transportation and safety research realm. In today's post, meet Julia Griswold, SafeTREC Researcher.


Can you share a little bit about yourself and your role at SafeTREC?

My parents met when they were students at Cal and I grew up in Oakland, so I'm a local. I have a B.A. in Linguistics from Pomona College, a small liberal arts college in Southern California, an M.A. in Geography from San Francisco State University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley. In between those degrees, I held various admin, IT, and GIS analyst positions. I kept going back to school so I could qualify for more interesting jobs. 

I've been an academic researcher since 2017, and was a postdoctoral scholar and graduate student researcher before that. I mostly work on Caltrans traffic safety studies with Offer Grembek, and I am Co-PI on a few. We supervise and collaborate with the brilliant students from the transportation engineering and city and regional planning graduate programs.

What sparked your interest in transportation safety research?

I've always been interested in the built environment, but my interest in transportation began in the 9th grade when I started cycling, commuting 5 miles to school in Berkeley and doing long-distance cycling trips in Northern California with school groups. During undergrad, I experienced both the auto-oriented sprawl of eastern Los Angeles County and the transit-rich density of Central London, where I did study abroad. Comparing those places with my hometown in the East Bay made me think a lot about how the built environment affects our transportation choices and the sustainability of the system. Having alternatives to the car is important, but people also need to feel safe using those options. 

While studying for my M.A. in Geography, I had an internship at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, supporting an epidemiologist conducting research on pedestrian safety. That was an invaluable experience and my first exposure to the safety concepts and data sets (SWITRS!) that I still use at SafeTREC today. 

What current projects are you working on at SafeTREC?

I'm currently working on several projects for Caltrans that fall under a general theme of nonmotorized safety. I am working on both pedestrian and bicyclist exposure models for the state highway system, and I'm excited about getting started on a bicycle level of service study. I'm also collaborating with our Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety (CSCRS) partners at University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center on developing a clearinghouse of nonmotorized safety data. Access to data on nonmotorized modes is a huge barrier to high quality safety research, so we want to make it easy for researchers to access available data.

What issues are you particularly interested or passionate about?

Safety is just one element of sustainability. We need research that supports the transition to a sustainable transportation system made for all road users. This is a very complex problem that cannot be solved by bike lanes or pleas to personal responsibility alone. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I keep myself very busy with cat rescue volunteering, focusing on spay/neuter as the most humane approach to improving the lives of street cats in the East Bay. I also try to make time for reading, listening to podcasts, bicycling, Pilates, and other fitness endeavors.