DIY Bike Counts!

Bike Count FormWhen the opportunity came for me to participate as a volunteer in Glendale’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Count 2010 I jumped at the opportunity. Where else could I receive a crash course in conducting a reliable count of the folks who choose NOT to travel by car? Well, nowhere. Thanks, Colin Bogart in Glendale for hooking up Better Bike BH with all the tools we need for our own count!

Why Count?

For one thing, state law states that policy statements be fact-based and that plans be formulated based on an accurate statement of current conditions. So it should be with our bike plan, which is an adopted appendix to the General Plan, the required policy statement for local governments. The bike plan is also necessary should the city want to apply for state or Metro transportation grants.

So you can imagine the surprise recently when talking with the Transportation folks here in Beverly Hills that our 5-page bike plan was not based on a count of pedestrians or cyclists, nor did it include maps that were any more recent than 1977. Hardly an effective policy statement or planning tool, I thought, especially when compared to the 100+ pages plans in other cities prepared by experienced bike planning consultants.

It also seemed like a serious obstacle to receiving Caltrans or Metro grants. (I later learned, however, that even a cynical, cursory plan would suffice for these agencies, and that in any case, Beverly Hills wasn’t applying for any grants anyway. We need to change that too.)

We also need a benchmark today and an idea over time of how transportation choice changes. We simply need to plan for how we here in the region may choose to travel in the future. Time for concerned citizens to roll up our sleeves!

Here’s How it Works

Glendale count form image
Glendale's bike count form - all count forms are NOT alike!

You’re assigned a corner and given a blank count sheet (left) and told to count all of the folks that move though the intersection, counting separately pedestrians, bicyclists, and even assisted persons. Within the bicycle category, you’re asked to not how many kids ride, how many cycle on the sidewalk and/or without a helmet, and those that cycle against the traffic too. This is a fine-grained count! From that simple base we can know the ratio of walkers to bikers as well as the extent of safety education that may be required to get folks to cycle safely. (Note: no data is kept on failure to stop or yield.)

Data junkies like me can then generate some nice charts. With subsequent counts in later years, we can establish trends to better understand the proportion of travelers using on or other mode of travel, as well as gauge to what extent outreach or safety education is reaching the masses. Genius!

Glendale Bike CountThis is not complicated once you get used to the count form. The way my partner Clarence (right) and I decided to do it at a T-intersection was to divide the ‘T’ in half, and everybody exiting the intersection on my side I counted (and vice-versa). Two hours later we had two filled count sheets, a tally sheet (below), and a mess of data for Colin!

If each Better Bike BH member can volunteer a couple of hours – and persuade someone to whom we’ll be indebted to do the same – we will understand just how many cyclists navigate our streets sans bike lanes, signage, or markings.

The Upshot

More bikes means better choices all around. Consider: policymakers can require less parking if more residents and employees arrive via foot- and pedal-power, relieving developers of an expensive burden. discounted mass transit rides or subsidized folding bikes that you buy and take on board. Instead of more parking spaces that sit empty more than half of the day, put some of those development funds into shower facilities or exercise rooms at work. The possibilities are limitless.

Seems like a no-brainer, right?  COUNT ME BECAUSE I COUNT TOO!