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

November 2, 2018

This original piece was posted on SafeTREC's website. Pictures are courtesy of Lisa Peterson, SafeTREC. 


Last week, during the California-wide PedsCount Summit, we launched Street Story, SafeTREC’s new community engagement platform that helps residents, community groups and agencies collect information about transportation collisions, near-misses, general hazards and safe locations to travel. The platform invites users to enter stories about travel experiences.


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.




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. To address this, 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.




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. Narratives about travel experiences are important to 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 usually available in other data sources. Below is an example of a narrative about a near-miss.


“This intersection experiences regular collisions. On several occasions a car has run up onto the sidewalk. There have been numerous close calls with pedestrians. Cars frequently run the red light.”


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 information page. If you are interested in learning about how your organization or agency can use Street Story, contact  

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