Sustainability In Action: See How One Bridge Engineer Puts a New Spin on Biking to Work
Sustainability is now a top priority for firms across the globe. According to a recent Mckinsey poll, a larger share of executives now say that sustainability programs make a positive contribution to their companies’ value both in the short and long term.
Greater still, over a third of global consumers are now willing to pay more for sustainability-integrated services and products. Now more than ever, individuals are both looking for more environmentally sensitive alternatives and looking to firms to champion resilient initiatives.
Given the information, the time has never been better for people and firms to truly live their sustainable values—not only to internal stakeholders but also to external partners and communities.
Otak is excited to highlight a Bridge Project Engineer in Colorado who is truly living those values especially on the jobsite.
We would like to introduce you to David Graff, who biked 22.7 miles over three days through the City of Aurora for a single project—both to reduce his carbon footprint and get a leg up on his competitors in the art of pedestrian bridge inspection.
A Sustainable Approach to Pedestrian Bridge Inspection
Who is David?
David Graff, P.E. is a leading voice in our firm for bridge engineering in the Rocky Mountain West. Serving as project manager for bridge inspections and replacements throughout the region, his career is one of excellence at the highest standard. As a member of our structural engineering practice, David is also a certified bridge inspector for the National Highway Institute (NHI).
He also happens to be one of Otak’s best cyclists, and calls the back roads and pedestrian areas of Colorado his backyard. A bike commuter and environmentalist through and through, David had long awaited a chance to merge his love of cycling and the love of his work—what he calls “Two of my favorite things.” It took one RFP dropping from the City of Aurora to give David that chance.
What’s the Project?
The City of Aurora PROS 2022 Bridge Inspections project is one uniquely fit for David and his talents. In addition to being a certified NHI bridge inspector, David has also been running inspections on pedestrian bridges for years in other cities like Vail and Aspen—a niche market in the Colorado region. He specializes in full scale inspection, or the art of inspecting every bridge within a given municipality for deficiencies, structural soundness, and overall ability to serve the community where the bridge lies.
The problem in Aurora? A notable pedestrian bridge suffering from erosion and a washed away backfill underneath the approach lapse. David and his team were able to win an initial contract for the bridge in question, and later sold the city on inspections and service for every pedestrian bridge in Aurora.
Thanks to perseverance and long-standing relationships in Colorado, David was tapped to lead this charge behind this renewed effort to fortify and inspect pedestrian bridges across the community.
Why Bike to Each Site?
In David’s own words, “When you’re going and inspecting pedestrian bridges, being a pedestrian just feels right.” To truly experience the bridges in their full capacity, David felt that he needed to “be a pedestrian” to do his best work. Besides making the work more enjoyable, he also found that riding his bike would be more efficient from both a time and sustainability standpoint.
Parking is limited in many of these spaces where pedestrian bridges exist, like the ones on the Highline Canal Trail and Sand Creek Park. Armed with just a bike, David was able to saddle right up to each bridge and perform a full inspection as an active user. Saving time walking between a car and the site, while also saving emissions by biking seemed immediately like a no brainer.
What Did David Find?
There are three categories of deficiencies that every bridge inspector looks out for on a trip to a site:
- Maintenance – Basic upkeep. Things like trimming trees that are growing underneath bridge, clean debris.
- Preventative – Things that aren’t problems yet, but if not addressed could become a problem.
- Repair – Deficiencies that could threaten structural integrity or safety of bridge. Should be address before next inspection or immediately.
While he’s only a third of the way through the full-scale inspection cycle, those he’s visited look to be in good shape out of the 26 he’s biked to this year.
More Than Just Bridge Inspectors
Of course, pedestrian bridges differ from vehicular bridges.
Vehicular bridges tend to be bigger and have traffic moving faster making deficiencies more difficult to notice in passing and potentially more hazardous. And when it comes to pedestrian bridges, there also isn’t a governing body that ensures certain standards are met, which can lead to the maintenance of pedestrian bridges being more likely to fall by the wayside. Still, in either case, it’s ultimately the same expertise and principles come into play for inspection.
David stresses here that himself and his team are not just bridge inspectors—they’re bridge engineers, meaning that they’re capable of giving reasons why deficiencies arise and structural fixes for problems, which ultimately saves money for clients as issues are caught early on.
Interested in learning more about a transportation approach that’s about more than just mobility? Take a closer look at our work that’s designed to create greater access in communities to healthy lifestyles and resilient economies.