Sarah O'Brien

Sarah O’Brien

Senior Research Associate



Sarah O’Brien joined the University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) in 2018. She has over twenty years of experience in non-motorized planning, education, policy, design, and research. Her primary focus is conducting research and providing technical assistance to practitioners to improve walking and bicycling within communities. She has experience collecting field data such as volume, speed, and user profiles and behaviors and has conducted controlled and naturalistic observational studies.

Sarah is a certified National Highway Institute (NHI) instructor; she led the development of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Let’s Go NC! curriculum; and she helped develop a Basic Law Enforcement Training module to teach officers about North Carolina laws and enforcement strategies related to non-motorized travel.

Within North Carolina, Sarah began her career developing and administering NCDOT’s Planning Grant Initiative. She also served two stints as the state’s acting SRTS coordinator and as one of the original core group members of the Watch for Me NC campaign. She also launched and led NCDOT’s Non-Motorized Volume Data Program for five years.

Nationally, Sarah has served as a member of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Bicycle Transportation Committee (ACH20) and Traffic Monitoring Committee (ACP70), chaired the Bicycle and Pedestrian Data Subcommittee (ACP70(2)), and contributed as a panel member on two previous NCHRP projects. She has been a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) since 2010 and of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) since 2019.

Sarah has a Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) from the University of California, Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Her undergraduate degree in Biology is from UNC-Asheville.