Advocating for active transportation

Cadell Chand standing next to his bike.

Cadell Chand likes to de-stress on his bike ride home. It’s something the civil engineering master’s student appreciates about living in Corvallis.

“A lot of the bike paths are through parks, so there’s some scenery,” he said. “I usually take the Midge Cramer path, with the covered bridge. There’s always alpacas out there. It’s just nice to do something active on your commute.”

Chand’s biking interests go beyond his commute. His research merges engineering and active transportation, and his work on bicycle and pedestrian safety has taken him across the state and around the world.

As an undergrad in the Honors College at Oregon State University, Chand was required to write a thesis. He connected with David Hurwitz, associate professor of transportation engineering and the Eric H.I. and Janice Hoffman Faculty Scholar in Civil and Construction Engineering, who runs the driving and bicycling simulator on campus.

Hurwitz encouraged Chand to design his own research thesis project using the simulator, where virtual environments can be built to re-create particular intersections or neighborhoods.

“I ended up looking at door-zone collisions, when a car door opens right in front of a bike,” Chand said. “We were looking at how cyclists react in different scenarios. At what point do they choose to come to a complete stop before the open door? When do they choose to depart the bicycle lane and go into the motor vehicle lane or onto the sidewalk?”

In the lab, test subjects pedal through simulated environments while their position and speed are recorded, an eye tracker captures eye movement, and a galvanic skin response sensor measures sweat gland activity and heart rate. These tools, along with survey data taken before and after the simulation, help researchers get into the mind of a bicyclist and study their decision-making.

“This research was the first of its kind,” Hurwitz said. “It recently resulted in a peer-reviewed conference paper for the 2019 Road Safety and Simulation International Conference.”

Chand’s work was also recognized by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals with a best poster award during its 2019 conference.

“I didn’t realize until I began this research the human factors involved or the psychological side of transportation,” he said. “That was really cool to learn about. It was a nice twist on civil engineering.”

Chand’s research interests led him to get involved with active transportation policy at the state level. Since 2016, he has served on the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, an eight-member committee appointed by Gov. Kate Brown that acts as a liaison between the public and the Oregon Department of Transportation. The committee meets six times a year in locations across the state to support the implementation of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

“It took a while for me to understand how to use my engineering background in that space and how to communicate it,” Chand said. “I got a lot of help from other people on the committee. They told me when I was not making sense. A lot of it is learning how to get the technical details across in a nontechnical way.”

As Chand found his footing, his work with the committee also progressed; he’s currently in charge of OBPAC’s emerging trends and technologies focus area, including new developments in autonomous vehicle technology and policy.

“Cadell has demonstrated significant leadership in the active transportation domain through his membership on the committee,” Hurwitz said. “This is an exceedingly rare contribution for an early career transportation professional.”

Chand is also active on campus as president of Oregon State’s student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. In 2019, he was part of the chapter’s team in an international transportation safety competition jointly sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The team cleared the first round of judging on its design proposal and was awarded a stipend to build a prototype.

“Our idea was a system that uses sensors, either embedded in your vehicle or just on your phone, to detect when you’ve been in a collision,” Chand said. “And then you use the information to predict the injuries sustained in that collision and send it to emergency responders.”

Oregon State’s team was one of three selected to represent North America at the final stage, held in the Netherlands. After a “Shark Tank”-style pitch to agency officials and judges from several continents, the team placed fifth overall.

“It was really cool to see all the bicycle infrastructure there,” Chand said. “You can tell that country is heavily influenced by civil engineers.”

With graduation swiftly approaching, Chand is processing data and finishing his master’s thesis. He’s focused on the use of network-level models of controlled and autonomous vehicles based on the driving simulator results. After graduation, he’ll make the move to Tacoma, Washington, where he’s lined up a job with Fehr and Peers, a midsize transportation consulting company known for its work with active transportation. As one of three engineers, he’ll help open the company’s newest location in the Pacific Northwest.  

Sept. 8, 2021