School director named 'Bike Hero' by city of Tempe

Each year, the city of Tempe recognizes one individual or organization as a “Bike Hero” — highlighting the work being done in the community to increase awareness and promoting bicycling as a viable mode of transportation. This year’s honoree is Trisalyn Nelson, director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University.

“Dr. (Nelson) is a Tempe treasure, with so many facets to her bike heroism," said Lauren Kuby, vice mayor for the city of Tempe. "Her bike advocacy, her passion for bike safety and her scholarly contributions are a shining example to us all. She walks — or bikes! — the talk and is a role model for her students, neighbors and the larger community.” 

Nelson is frequently seen around campus on her bike — her favorite mode of transportation around Tempe’s campus – and is also a strong advocate for creating safer spaces for bicyclists. Following an almost crash she experienced while riding her bike, Nelson decided to take action. Combining her GIS expertise and enthusiasm for biking, she created bikemaps.org — a platform to collect crowdsourced data to identify where crashes, near misses, hazards and bike thefts were taking place. Today, data is submitted from more than 40 countries.  

“Bikemaps.org can help make biking safer, and safe biking means more people can ride,” said Nelson. 

Safety is a huge concern for Nelson, as well as for city planners and governments — including those who selected her for the “Bike Hero” award she received during a Tempe City Council meeting on Aug. 15.

“Just this week I noticed a hot spot of reporting on bikemaps.org and was able to alert the city to an intersection that they may want to investigate to improve bike safety,” said Nelson. “The city of Tempe has amazing staff that are great to work with.”

Nelson’s work can also be seen around the ASU Tempe campus, including two bike counters that were installed in 2018. This joint effort with ASU Parking and Transit Services marked the first effort by the university to obtain continuous data on the number of bicyclists on the Tempe campus.

Whether the work is happening locally on the ASU campus or through data collection happening worldwide, Nelson serves as a strong advocate for bicyclists.

“Being on my bike just makes me happy. I love the freedom, exercise and cost savings, plus it’s sustainable and clean,” she said. “To me, bikes are a solution to so many things that getting more people on bikes is my passion.”

Nelson was also recognized for her work research on bicycling safety in 2018 when she was named the “Research Professional of the Year” by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.