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5 September 2016
Insights to grow your count program
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Trends in Active Transportation Count Programs

Counting bikes and pedestrians is becoming an established practice. Active transportation professionals recognize its value: the guidelines exist and are evolving. Deployment projects are on-going and discussion of best practices continues: in working groups as well as the conference circuit (see “Upcoming events” in the left menu of this blog). These resources are helping establish data collection practices, yet organizational challenges still exist.

What are the opportunities and barriers for growing a count program in your community? Over the last months, Eco-Counter has reached out to Bicycle Friendly Communities across the United States to find out. Here we share some interesting trends we discovered when speaking with mobility coordinators, bike advocates, trail managers, and traffic engineers.

Funding Competition: build it or measure it?

Finding funds for walking and cycling projects is a universal challenge. If you build it, will they come? And if they come, how would we know? Many plans stress the priorities for infrastructure investments. To monitor progress, proposed performance measures often relate to ridership or changes in walking and cycling activity. Yet while policy support exists to counting, many places will lack a framework and operating funds for managing an on-going count program.

The blessing and curse of turning movement counts

TMCs are widely established practices of counting motor vehicles at intersection over a day or peak period. It is often a natural opportunity and first point of entry for many agencies to begin collecting pedestrians and cyclist volumes. As traffic operations staff expand their responsibility to include non-motorized transportation, it can be tempting to roll in pedestrian and cyclist count using the same tools and methodologies for motorized traffic. However, travel patterns for pedestrians and cyclists differ. Counting them presents unique challenges such as alternative peaks, unconfined travel paths, often lower volumes, weather effects and more.

Who started it: relying on other agencies

Every place is different and partnerships have been a special means for many organization to gather pedestrian and cyclist data. For many areas, the National Bike and Pedestrian Documentation Project has been the impetus to start often relying on volunteerism and strong ties to the community. Other cities look to the regional transportation authority to bring guidance, leadership and seed funds in exchange for local manpower and oversight. Sometimes knowledge sharing is across departments: a parks and recreation department that depends on transportation’s expertise to deploy trail counts and even analyze use patterns or a shift of the count program from a sustainable mobility group to the larger traffic operation department.

Do these trends exist in your community? Reach out to discuss ways to approach these challenges. As leaders in the field, Eco-Counter has a unique perspective from working with hundreds of agencies all over North America from city departments to advocacy group, regional planning commission to State DOTs.

We would love to hear from you. Send us a message or speak to a member of our team at 1-866-518-4404.

Resources and references on pedestrian and bicycle counting

  1.  NCHRP Report 797: Guidebook on Pedestrian and Bicycle Volume Data Collection
  2. Traffic Monitoring for Non-Motorized Traffic, Chapter 4 of the FHA Traffic Monitoring Guide
  3. Guide to Bicycle & Pedestrian Count Program, Portland State University
  4. Non-Motorized Volume Data Monitoring, North Carolina University
  5. National Bike and Pedestrian Documentation Project
  6. Pedestrian and Bicycle Counts, Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Centre

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