Street Story: How can we create inclusive community engagement technologies?

November 1, 2018

During the California-wide PedsCount! Summit 2018, we launched Street Story, SafeTREC’s new community engagement platform that allows residents, community groups and agencies to collect information about transportation collisions, near-misses, general hazards and safe locations to travel. In essence, the platform invites users to enter stories about travel experiences.

How can we create inclusive community engagement technologies?

Stories are powerful and can compel positive change. During PedsCount!, presenters told their own stories and shared experiences about what it takes to create more just and equitable communities so that all road users can have equal access to safe and walkable streets. During their presentation about the history of the Bay Area through the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe’s perspective, Monica Arellano and Alan Leventhal emphasized the importance of recognizing the experiences that many racial and ethnic groups face as road users, as did Charles Brown in his keynote address, “Justice, Holla if you Hear Me”. We heard about new ways to engage with community members in James Roja’s Place It! workshop, and how to build interdisciplinary coalitions to push for justice and mobility during Poncho Guevara, Sahra Sulaiman, and Aboubacar Ndiaye’s panel.

Many of these topics informed our thinking when working with members of the public, community organizations, city and county agencies, and industry experts to create Street Story. We thought about how technology can be an important way to increase public participation in designing streets and developing policy for some, but can also present new hurdles for others. We thought further about the role Street Story plays in helping to support outreach.

Walk Audit Near Highway

Street Story can be used to address barriers to civic participation for all communities. For example, research shows that many online engagement tools are often used by wealthier, younger and whiter people; therefore, we are working directly with community groups and agencies to incorporate this tool with other community engagement activities to reach people who may not initially be inclined to use technology. A Starter Guide is included on the platform to help organizations think through how Street Story is used. Because no single way of engagement will work for everyone, we’ve created a paper version of the platform that can be used by those who don’t feel comfortable or don’t have the resources to participate online, and we encourage groups to use other engagement techniques along with Street Story.

Street Story in action

The role of stories

Street Story is a way for community groups and agencies to collect stories, then use these stories, along with other data sources, to build partnerships and inform policy and street design. Stories about travel experiences on the streets are important in providing a fuller picture of safety issues. We’ve found that over 80 percent of reports on the Street Story platform include a narrative, which provides valuable information that is not normally available in other data sources. Below is an example of a narrative about a near-miss.

Narrative captured in Street Story

We have a long way to go to create inclusive, safe and sustainable communities. Finding new ways to hear from people about their experiences, and creating ways to make this information more accessible is a start.

For more information about Street Story, visit the platform or the program page

Funding for Street Story is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Today’s guest blog post is authored by Kate Beck, Street Story program lead at SafeTREC, and co-developer of the Street Story platform.