Research News

Volunteers needed for pedestrian safety research on campus

In partnership with design firm Gresham Smith, a team of Vanderbilt researchers from the university and medical center are deploying groundbreaking technology to increase pedestrian safety and comfort on campus. This is being accomplished using smart watches that record an individual’s heart rate while walking on and around campus. Changes in heart rate have shown to be indicators of locations where pedestrian stress is heightened, enabling researchers to pinpoint these areas and study whether there are operational or infrastructure strategies to reduce pedestrian stress.  

Learn more and volunteer 

Research Benefits  

Use of this technology will enable facility planners to examine and make proactive improvements in pedestrian safety. 

 Data from this research will be used to inform campus planning, including where Vanderbilt’s new facilities will prioritize walking and biking with wider sidewalks, improved crossings and better lighting. The findings will also have the potential to shape local and state initiatives around pedestrian safety.  

Participant Information 

Participants will be asked to share their heart rate and location data as collected by their smartwatch. Data will only be collected when you choose to start a trip and when it falls within or on the perimeter of the Vanderbilt campus. All data collected will be aggregated so personal information cannot be distinguished. The data collection period begins immediately after signup and runs through mid-May. 

“This is a unique opportunity to utilize innovative technology to collect important information about an individual’s mobility experience and demonstrate how it can be utilized to improve public health and safety,” said Mark Abkowitz, distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering, who is leading the project. “Once proven, the opportunities are numerous to adopt a similar approach for a variety of situations that address quality of life.”   

For questions or requests for additional information, reach out to 

Current Pedestrian Safety Projects on Campus 

MoveVU, Vanderbilt’s strategic transportation and mobility plan and part of the FutureVU comprehensive campus planning efforts, is a highly collaborative partnership between Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering and the Office of Transportation & Mobility in the Division of Administration. MoveVU goals are to build a more walkable, bikeable and accessible campus. 

Learn more about the pedestrian safety initiatives completed or underway on campus with FutureVU:  

  • West End Neighborhood transformed from parking lots and roadways to accessible pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly pathways and greenway. 
  • The “Walk and Roll Loop” will be a wide and comfortable loop encircling campus for active transportation and recreation, and to integrate the Vanderbilt campus with the rest of Nashville. 
  • Jess Neely Drive to close for construction of pedestrian, bicycle-friendly greenway.