Undergraduate Education

The 2024 Battle to Save Lives: an SMU Global and Public Health Case Competition

On April 22nd, students in Dr. Eric G Bing’s Creating Impact in Global & Public Health (APSM 4355; ANTH 4345/6345; MNO 4345) course competed in the ninth Battle to Save Lives, a global and public health case competition. 

Four teams of undergraduates presented their comprehensive strategies for increasing community engagement and user safety along the proposed Dallas LOOP Bikeway, a trail that will bridge infrastructural gaps to bring together cyclists across the Dallas community. 

The LOOP Bikeway is a groundbreaking initiative that aims to connect 50 miles of existing trails across Dallas, enhancing accessibility to cycling and linking diverse communities and neighborhoods. While the LOOP will serve as a unified thread across the city, its presence in various contexts presents distinct challenges requiring innovative solutions.

In South Dallas, a region with high poverty and unemployment rates, cycling is less common due to several barriers. The introduction of the LOOP in this area could transcend mere recreational use, potentially connecting residents to vital transportation and employment hubs. Conversely, the Katy Trail, a popular path among Dallas’s affluent and densely populated areas, faces potential safety risks from increased traffic, particularly during peak times when it is frequented by bikers, runners, and walkers. With these considerations in mind, Dr. Bing tasks his students with developing inventive solutions to increasing safe cyclist traffic along the Dallas LOOP Bikeway in this year’s case competition. 

The LOOP Bikeway Challenge required students to thoroughly assess environmental and infrastructural challenges, gathering insight from community members and organizations, such as the Friends of the Katy Trail and Bike Friendly South Dallas, to strengthen their proposals. Dr. Bing split up the undergraduates into four groups, assigning two to each of the following strategies:  

 South Dallas – Community Strategy: 

Develop a comprehensive plan to boost bicycle usage in the South Dallas sections of the LOOP. This plan should include a thorough assessment of the obstacles to cycling in these communities and strategies to overcome them. 

Katy Trail – Alternate Route Strategy: 

Formulate an alternate routing strategy for the Katy Trail to minimize the risk of bicycle-related accidents during times of heavy pedestrian traffic. 

Judges offer insight to presenters following their proposal.

The following judges selected the winning team: 

  • Dr. Frederick P. Cerise, MD, MPH, President & CEO of Parkland Health 
  • Dr. G. “Gus” Khankarli, PhD, PE, Director of the City of Dallas Department of Transportation 
  • Dr. Robin Poston, PhD, Associate Provost and Dean of Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies 
South Dallas – Community Strategy: 

Team Engage South Dallas  

Members of Team Engage South Dallas posing with coach Vincent Hall.

By eliciting the guidance of community organizations such as the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Bike Friendly South Dallas, Dallas Bicycle Coalition, Dallas County Public Works, the LOOP, and residents of surrounding South and East Dallas communities, undergraduates on team Engage South Dallas worked with experts to identify and address barriers in bicycle access.  

Team members were able to identify key economic and infrastructural barriers in South Dallas, including a lower median household income, higher rates of crime and unemployment, older neighborhood infrastructure, and the devastating impact of systemic racism. Team Engage South Dallas emphasizes that addressing the needs and concerns of this community in developing the LOOP will ensure that the bikeway provides safe and affordable transportation alternatives to offer greater access to employment and educational opportunities.  

Undergraduates of Team Engage South Dallas present their proposal before the judges.

Through surveying community members and bicycling conditions in partnership with residents and Bike Friendly South Dallas, the undergraduates noted that a lack of upkeep and signage as well as inadequate or unsafe trails are among the largest disincentives to cycling in South Dallas. Team Engage South Dallas proposes the following recommendations as part of their comprehensive strategy to address community engagement in South Dallas: cycle tracks along principal and minor streets, protected bike lanes in community and residential streets, and the implementation of a Bike Bus program in five DISD elementary schools to promote safe and targeted youth engagement. Additionally, the undergraduates call for updated wayfinding signage, secure bicycle parking, adequate lighting along bike trails, and increased advertising to increase community understanding and engagement.  

The dynamic partnership between transportation agencies, community-focused organizations, and citizens, allowed students to approach their given challenge in an informed and intentional manner, which they hope will translate to real-world success upon its implementation. Team members included Jules Campbell, Sujit Gurrapu, Caylee Kolb, Bryce McMorris, Tricia Tsang, and Jackson Young. If you would like to learn more about Team Engage South Dallas, watch their presentation or read their report

Wheeling Forward South Dallas 

Team Wheeling Forward South Dallas pose together after delivering their presentation.

Members of the team Wheeling Forward South Dallas begin their presentation by sharing an alarming statistic: only 5.2% of South Dallas residents utilize a bicycle as a means of work transportation. For community members, infrastructural barriers such as red zones and geographic isolation brought about by the development of the main roadways I-30 and Woodall Rodgers effectively separate South Dallas from North and Downtown communities. As students point out, the train run by Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the leading public transportation agency connecting Dallas communities, stops only twice in South Dallas, highlighting how inaccessible the community is compared to other regions of the city, which boast stronger transportation infrastructure.  

The undergraduates report that the main factors resulting in decreased community engagement along the South Dallas portion of the LOOP include a lack of bicycle access and infrastructure and unsafe bicycling paths which sit in disconnect from other available means of transit. Additionally, the team references a lack of available amenities along currently available paths as well as limited educational resources for residents interested in biking.  

Representatives of Team Wheeling Forward South Dallas pitch their innovative solutions.

By consulting research put forth by organizations including the City Dallas Department of Transportation and Friends of the Santa Fe Trail, and individualized engagement with local organizations and residents at the East Dallas Bike Rodeo, the students put forth four key sets of recommendations.  

First, they emphasize the need for improvements to safety infrastructure and bicyclist protections along South Dallas, mirroring the physically and visually separated biking lanes, visibility markers, and lighting employed by the rest of the city. Second, the undergraduates call for Dallas to develop a robust bike-sharing program, a successful technique in many major American cities to address a lack of bicycle access; additionally, signage should be placed along LOOP access points. Third, students believe that the addition of tree coverage, water stations, benches, and bicycle storage options would increase aesthetics, safety, and ease of use. Finally, to increase awareness of and excitement for bicycling in South Dallas communities, the team suggests the implementation of social rides, bike rodeos, and bike bus initiatives.  

By emphasizing focus on affordability, ease of implementation, and bike-centric approaches to transportation in historically underserved communities like South Dallas, Wheeling Forward South Dallas is confident that their approach increases equitable community engagement along the LOOP Bikeway. Team members included Lauren Bick, Blaire Biggers, Taylor Phipps, Izzy Ritch, Margarita Kuzin, and Tanner Ray. If you would like to learn more about Team Wheeling Forward South Dallas, watch their presentation or read their report. 

 Katy Trail – Alternate Route Strategy: 

Trail Blazers  

The Trail Blazers smile together after sharing their pitch.

The Trail Blazers shift their focus towards the Katy Trail portion of the LOOP, a popular destination for cyclists, joggers, and walkers alike, to develop inventive solutions to prioritize pedestrian safety with the expected increase in cyclist traffic.  

The undergraduates reveal that, among major American cities, Dallas ranks the highest in pedestrian fatalities. With that, a staggering 90.1% of cycling accidents in Dallas resulted in injury or death. With pedestrian and cyclist traffic coming in both directions along the trail, students emphasize that swift and effective action must be taken to ensure the safety of Dallas trail-goers in light of the LOOP development. Their proposal intends to address safety by developing an alternative route along the Katy Trail portion of the LOOP development to ensure that both walkers and bikers can access the trail safely. 

The Trail Blazers deliver their pitch before the audience.

The team models their recommendations from the successful initiatives of major metropolitan cities like Austin, whose 2014 Bicycle and Urban Trails Master Plan effectively doubled the number of residents who regularly commute to work via bicycle through a 70% increase in their existing bike lane network. Similar success can be attributed to Chicago, who’s over two decades of bicycling initiatives, and the development of a loop system similar to what is being done in Dallas, have led to an 1100% increase in cyclist commuters since 1980.  

After reviewing the available research, undergraduates on team Trail Blazers turn to the community for additional guidance. Consulting with organizations in community engagement and public safety has led students to the following recommendations. 

Beginning with an alternative route for cyclists to avoid high traffic along the Katy Trail, students suggest southbound bikers exit the trail from Mockingbird Lane, turn onto Airline Road, and continue along Abbott Street. A paved alleyway along Abbott takes trail-goers to Fitzhugh Avenue, where they can turn onto Turtle Creek Boulevard and ride that down to Carlisle Street and shortly after, Routh Street, where they can re-enter the LOOP trail.  

For northbound cyclists, an exit on Routh Street, a quick turn onto Carlisle Street, and a left into Cedar Springs and Turtle Creek Boulevard will direct trail users up to Armstrong Avenue. Where Armstrong meets Abbott Avenue, cyclists continue along until turning onto Airline, which reconnects to the LOOP at Mockingbird Avenue.

Students feel that additional safety measures should be employed for cyclists who choose to forgo their alternate route and utilize the Katy Trail. Strategically placed speed signs, proven to slow down bikers on stretches where increasing speed is common, would ensure that cyclists are tuned in to their safety and the safety of others sharing the trail. Additionally, students hope to bring together community volunteers to monitor trail safety along high-traffic portions of the trail and serve as a resource for trail goers.  

Ultimately, the team feels their proposal makes excellent use of existing infrastructure and provides needed upgrades to current safety models in budget-conscious ways. Team Trail Blazers believe their recommendations would encourage cyclists to utilize the LOOP development without compromising security. Team members included Claire Maxwell, Connor Light, Katie Jordan, Matt Baer, Simran Waraich, and Viktoriya Kuchina. If you would like to learn more about Team Trail Blazers, watch their presentation or read their report.

 Two Wheels, One Vision  

Members of Team Two Wheels, One Vision, pose beside their coach, Shelley Potter.

With two million annual visitors to the popular 3.5-mile Katy Trail, the familiar walking, running, and cycling destination is projected to see a major increase in existing traffic with the development of the LOOP. Undergraduates on team Two Wheels, One Vision highlight that Dallas’s growing population and projected major developments around the Katy Trail will only increase the volume of residents traveling around this area. 

Of the modest 230 miles of existing cycling networks across the Dallas landscape, the city incurs a staggeringly high rate of cyclist crashes, reporting 95 in 2021. These numbers, far exceeding what would be expected of a network of this size, highlight that current safety measures remain insufficient for the needs of Dallas area cyclists. Students emphasize extreme concern for the projected increase in trail-goers in light of the LOOP. 

Undergraduates sought advice from the Dallas Department of Transportation, Friends of the Katy Trail, and the LOOP Bikeway, in developing their proposal. They gathered insight into trail habits and user behaviors through interviews, observational study, AI data, and expert opinions. In doing this, they learned that for cyclists, which make up approximately 18% of current Katy Trail traffic, the restricting width of the trail lends itself to a constant fear of running into pedestrians. Walkers share these concerns. More pressingly, they feel their safety concerns are not being appropriately addressed. 

Undergraduates with Team Two Wheels, One Vision share their recommendations for an alternate route.

With this insight in mind, undergraduates in team Two Wheels One Vision developed an alternate route for cyclists. In bypassing the overcrowded Katy Trail, students hope to increase safety along this portion of the LOOP development.  

They propose to keep cyclists on the Katy Trail with increased trail etiquette signage until the trail meets Knox/Henderson. In this portion of the route, students recommend imposing cycling hours, in which pedestrians are encouraged to use the red path over the cement path to allow room for cycling. Outside of the posted hours, cyclists who choose to use the trail must maintain a certain speed to protect trail-goers.

At Knox/Henderson, cyclists will cross over to Buena Vista Street, turning left onto Armstrong Avenue and right onto Travis Street before reaching Fitzhugh Avenue, where they want to encourage the city of Dallas to implement separated bike lanes to control traffic flow. From here, cyclists will take Turtle Creek Boulevard to Maple Avenue, an area already structured for cyclists. There, they will meet Reverchon Park, where students propose the development of a cycling path. Within Reverchon Park, drainage pipes could be repurposed into a lit cycling tunnel with the help of engineers to connect bikers to other portions of the LOOP.  

Artistic renditions of the proposed connector tunnel, provided by the Trinity Coalition Board.

Ultimately, the students of Two Wheels, One Vision feel strongly that by consulting key stakeholders, experts, and community members, their proposal is well-equipped to the task of increasing user safety along the Katy Trail portion of the LOOP Bikeway. Team members included Kate Frankmore, Miles Gensler, Lindsay Middleton, Rowdie Peets, Tia Taylor, and Besiana Tela. If you would like to learn more about Team Two Wheels, One Vision, watch their presentation or read their report.

The judges carefully considered each proposal, asking questions and providing thoughtful feedback to each team. The South Dallas Community Strategy was won by Team Engage South Dallas. The Katy Trail Alternate Route challenge was won by Team Two Wheels, report One Vision. 

The competition wraps up a successful semester in Dr. Bing’s Creating Impact in Global & Public Health (APSM 4355; ANTH 4345/6345; MNO 4345) course. Throughout the semester, undergraduates developed skills in public health leadership through hands-on training, classroom engagement, and interactive competitions. Many students hope to pursue careers in healthcare to apply their knowledge to real-world public health challenges.  

To learn more about Institute for Leadership Impact programs, visit our website, email us at, and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn 

Written by Ainsley Johnson, Research Assistant with the Center for Global Health Impact and the Institute for Leadership Impact. 

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