Friday, April 16, 2010

Making Bikes Count Part 1 – A Dearth of Data

“If you don't count bikes then bikes don't count” - BCGP Secretary Dennis Winters.

Traffic data - Our major transportation agencies PENNDOT, NJ DOT, Streets Department, DRPA all know how many motor vehicles use their roads. They can measure traffic trends, and determine how many vehicles are turning when and where. Transit agencies like SEPTA track ridership data for every bus and train trip. This data is required so the resources to manage and maintain our transportation system are allocated in the fairest and most efficient manner.

But where is the data for bicycle traffic? Transportation planners and engineers make decisions every that effect the ease and safety of bicycle and pedestrian travel, but amazingly the comprehensive transportation databases maintained by the regional transportation providers contains almost no bicycle and pedestrian travel data. I learned early on as a bicycle advocacy volunteer that the lack of data often yielded the assumption that no one bicycles.

With the lack of cooperation from Transportation Departments bicycle and pedestrian advocates have been left on their own to look for ways to collect and analyze data. Over the past several years and with very limited funding the Bicycle Coalition has monitored bicycle trips with counts as far north as Spring Garden St, as far south as Christian as far west as 38th and as far east as the Ben Franklin Bridge. On the pedestrian side the Center City District counts pedestrians annually between the hours of 11 and 2.

We are not alone in our efforts. The National Bicycle and Pedestrian documentation Project a joint effort of Alta Planning & Design and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Pedestrian and Bicycle Council. The project is unfunded relying on volunteers to collect data but it has developed a simple methodology to standardize counts.

Meanwhile computer traffic models are finally being improved to estimate traffic volumes and demand. DVRPC recently announced that future Center City cordon line counts will include bicycle and pedestrian traffic. That means that every block that bicyclists entering Center City will be counted during the rush hours. We hope that the next federal transportation authorization bill will require Departments of Transportation to count bicyclists and pedestrians.

In the meantime the Bicycle Coalition will do its best to count bicycles, making sure that bicycles and bicyclists count.

Coming Up in Making Bikes Count Part 2 - The Bicycle Coalition Get’s Busy. A history of BCGP Bicycle Counts.