How many people are actually out biking and walking in Washington State? We don’t really know.
But believe it or not, the state tries to get a handle on this number by getting a bunch of volunteers to hang out in the same locations every year and count people as they bike by. Eyeballs, paper and pen. Old school.
Sure, that’s a little crazy. But as someone who has volunteered to count a couple times in the past, it’s also kind of fun. How often do you really sit and people watch for two hours straight? You notice all the different ways people choose to move through a space, you notice the latest bike trends (drop bars are out, upright bars are in) and you get to help make sure the state knows people really are biking and walking.
Andrea Clinkscales — Principal Planner at Cascade Bicycle Club, which is coordinating volunteers — says there are still several Seattle shifts open and a lot of other King County shifts to fill. So if you have time in the morning or afternoon next week, sign up!
Details from Clinkscales:
Do you believe that everyone should be given the basic right to go by foot or bike safely and easily? Then help us prove that bicyclists and pedestrians count by counting them.
The 8th annual 2015 statewide bicycle and pedestrian count is one week away. The valuable data you collect helps advocates like us make the case for better bicycling and walking policies, projects, and funding in our state. We still have many open volunteer spots in Seattle and the Puget Sound. So volunteer to count on Vashon Island and make a difference in your community!
Count dates are Tuesday, Sept. 29; Wednesday, Sept. 30; and Thursday, Oct. 1
Count times are 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Click here to volunteer for a shift at either Vahson Hwy SW and SW Bank Rd or Vashon Hwy SW and 103rd Ave SW (Vahson Ferry Terminal)!
As an extra incentive, we have a great contest going! Sportsworks is generously donating one stainless steel Tofino No Scratch® Bike Rack to the first city to fill 100 percent of their volunteer sites by Thursday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. Learn more here!
We are also happy to verify volunteer hours for you. Please contact Andrea Clinkscales, Cascade Bicycle Club Principal Planner, at [email protected] for more information.
So what comes of this data? Here’s the 2014 report:
It’s odd to highlight the Vashon sites – the link takes you to a whole bunch of locations that still need to be covered. And it would be nice if they spelled Vashon right.
While the 2013 vs. 2014 #s look pretty impressive, we need to remember that this only represents 3 days out of the year.
I looked at the Fremont bike counter, and compared the 3 days for each year to the surrounding 2 months (Sept 1st – Nov 1st), and found that while 2013’s count days were typical: 99% of the average # of Fremont-bridge-crossers crossed that day, 2014’s count days were a bumper crop: 130% of the 2-month average # crossed that day.
Adjusting for that, 2014 only counted 12240 riders, which accounts for a modest 4% increase over 2013.
FWIW, the Fremont counter’s 2-month average that I looked at increased 14% from 2013-2014, which doesn’t track the 4% of the citywide #s, but it seems likely that biking increases will occur more prominently in more bikeable areas.
The data represented in that report is far too scattered to really say anything. You’d have to do a lot of work to normalize it from year-to-year to get a good look at what it means. If there are more people counting in more places, of course you’ll get more people counted (and vice versa). I assume there’s more data behind this report that is more useful.
I just included it because I bet a lot of you have volunteered for the count before and have never seen the tally results.
I should clarify: The number at top are hard to conclude from. The middle sections, which I now realize are what you were referring to, have been normalized to only include consistent count locations.
And yeah, you’re totally right. The weather can play a huge role in the results of these counts.
I only had a few minutes, so I only included the Fremont counters; adding in the rest of the counters, and perhaps correlating the raw data from the manual counts based on proximity to the counters, would probably get even more useful data.