MnDOT partners with U of M professor

University professor Greg Lindsey is researching bike and pedestrian traffic.

Professor Greg Lindsey poses in his office at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Sunday afternoon. Lindsey is currently on sabbatical doing research on bike and pedestrian counting for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Professor Greg Lindsey poses in his office at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Sunday afternoon. Lindsey is currently on sabbatical doing research on bike and pedestrian counting for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Brian Edwards

University of Minnesota Professor Greg Lindsey partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation earlier this year to study biking and walking habits in the state.

In January, MnDOT appointed Lindsey, who works at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, as its first scholar-in-residence. The collaboration is focused on using technology to improve health, the environment, and biking and walking infrastructure in the state. His residency will conclude next year.

Lindsey said the research will help solve transportation challenges in Minnesota, including a goal to emphasize a statewide multimodal transportation system.

“We want to increase data and evidence for planning and engineering bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure,” he said. “This is a position that is designed to increase collaboration between the University and MnDOT.”

Lindsey and the department are working together to gather data from pedestrian and bike counters on different trails and roads in the state.

The research is divided into three phases, which includes exploring technology options, testing them and partnering with other organizations to implement them, said Lisa Austin, MnDOT’s program coordinator.

Lindsey and MnDOT are studying locations in the state where people bike and walk frequently. They placed bike and pedestrian counters on both Central Avenue in Minneapolis and along a road in Eagan, Austin said.

The Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program is one of the programs using the research. The program was established as part of a health reform initiative in 2008 to combat obesity and tobacco use, the leading causes of chronic disease.

Along with Lindsey and MnDOT, the health department is using the research to determine ways to improve modes of transportation as means of exercise.

“[By biking and walking], we reduce carbon emissions,” Lindsey said. “We improve our health, so there are a lot of reasons for biking and walking.”

Karen Nikolai, SHIP’s healthy community planning manager, said making it more convenient for people to exercise will encourage them to do so.

Using the data is one way the program plans to make an active lifestyle more convenient for Minnesotans.

“So far, it is early in the counting,” said Dan Patterson, SHIP’s bicycle and pedestrian planner. “As we get it figured out, we will decide where to prioritize different bikeway improvements.”

The University received bike counters, similar to the ones Lindsey and MnDOT are using, to improve existing bike programs at the school, said alternative transportation manager Steve Sanders.

Civil, environmental and geo-engineering associate professor Julian Marshall, a researcher who studies air pollution and public health, said he has worked with Lindsey on previous projects.

Lindsey’s current study with MnDOT includes various details that make it different than most related studies, Marshall said.

“It looks at where the walking and biking happens, as opposed to where people live who tend to walk and bike,” he said.

Marshall said the collaboration between Lindsey and MnDOT reflects on how the state and the University can collaborate to promote cutting-edge research.