U-M researcher took to the streets — all of them


Kathy Klinich enjoys the satisfaction of crossing off a goal.

When the city of Ann Arbor issued its Visit Every Park Challenge — and the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of an Alaskan cruise — she decided to try to visit each of the city’s 162 parks.

She was done in six weeks.

With no vacation to plan and always seeking a new challenge, Klinich read about U-M research investigator Kevin Bohannon’s efforts to bike every street in Ann Arbor during the early months of the pandemic.

“I have a lack of athletic ability, so walking is about all I do,” said Klinich, research scientist in the Biosciences Group of the U-M Transportation Research Institute. “I’m good at many things, but sports are not one of them. I like to cross things off and complete things, and this was a way to motivate me to get off the couch and walk.”

A photo of Kathy Klinich on a walk in Ann Arbor
Kathy Klinich, research scientist in the Biosciences Group of the U-M Transportation Research Institute, takes a selfie during the final walk of her effort to walk every street in the city of Ann Arbor at least once. (Photo by Kathy Klinich)

Klinich had her test: Walk every street in the city of Ann Arbor at least once. That’s more than 1,200 avenues, boulevards, roads, one-ways and cul de sacs.

While January is not the friendliest month for outdoor walking in Michigan, it is traditionally the month that resolutions start, so Klinich launched her effort in January 2021. She finished last month, with the exception of three roads under construction near Glacier Hills.

“They’re blocked by construction, and I’m not going to bust into a construction site to finish my walks,” she said. “But I will go back and do them when they are open.”

Klinich used Strava and CityStrides to plan, map and track her walks. She typically ventured out for about an hour at a time and would usually cover 3-5 miles, with the inevitable hiccups.

“When I started, I would just kind of do it and toward the end I would be more specific about mapping out my routes,” she said. “Sometimes I misjudged and I had to walk 5 miles to get back to my car.”

She had to traverse several streets multiple times after neglecting to launch the app to track her trip. “That happened a dozen or so times,” she said.

Klinich said she would only go on a walk if the wind-chill factor was above 20 degrees, and she monitored the weather before venturing out, although that did not prevent her from being doused by a rain shower or two.

She lives in the city so many of her trips started in her neighborhood, but with friends in corners of the city as well, she would drive to a location and meet up with a companion to get her miles in.

“That’s how we socialized during the pandemic was the walks,” she said. “I’d say about half were with people and half were by myself.”

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The city’s streets would seem an ideal laboratory for a researcher whose expertise is in the area of transportation, and Klinich did make some notable observations. She said she largely felt safe walking by herself, and the city does a good job of maintaining sidewalks.

She enjoyed taking pictures of some of the odd sights she encountered along the way, including a free little library with Snoopy lying atop, a yard with multiple sizes of dinosaur statues and a giant tortoise she learned was named Stinky.

With the walk challenge largely in her rear-view mirror, with the exception of those three streets near Glacier Hills, Klinich said she might redo the park challenge with an eye toward making longer visits to each one.

She also has eight states left to visit — Alaska being one of them — but she still plans to head out on occasion and continuing exploring close to home.

“I have my favorite walks around my home area, but getting out and exploring the city was a good thing,” she said. “It’s good to get out and get some fresh air and hopefully get to know our city while doing so.”


What memorable moment in the workplace stands out? 

Much of my research in the past five years has involved figuring how individuals who travel in wheelchairs can independently dock themselves in automated vehicles. In May 2020, (at the beginning of the pandemic), we needed to get some prototypes built on deadline. Wheelchair Seating Services was able to deliver a wheelchair to the home of one of our research staff, Laura. She picked up a tool from UMTRI so she could scan the wheelchair geometry in her garage. She passed the file to one of our engineers, Kyle, who came up with a preliminary design in CAD. Our technician Brian picked up the wheelchair and brought it home, where he made a prototype mockup partly out of broomsticks. I was so proud of our team for the way we improvised to finish our task.

What can’t you live without? 

Books. I prefer physical books but have Kindle on my phone for book emergencies.

Name your favorite spot on campus. 

The Wave Field, because it’s such a hidden surprise.

What inspires you? 

I’ve always been motivated by crossing things off my list. So the CityStrides site that let me keep track of all my streets in Ann Arbor helped me keep going once I started.

What are you currently reading?

“Kaiju Preservation Society” by John Scalzi. I’ve really enjoyed almost everything he’s written. After I started reading him, I realized that he also wrote one of my favorite explanations of privilege.

Who had the greatest influence on your career path?

My first job out of college was at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s test lab in Ohio. I was trying to relocate to central Ohio where my husband was in grad school, and had two offers. I picked the one that had hired more people recently because it seemed like it would be more fun. That’s what set me on my career in automotive safety research, and I appreciate my first supervisors who gave me interesting projects from the start.


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