The Challenge: Urban planners, transportation engineers, and other public health professionals need accurate counts of bicyclists and pedestrians to help inform transportation planning and investments that support physical activity, such as walkways and bicycle facilities.
Make an impact: Many technologies for counting bicyclists and pedestrians have been developed and researchers, engineers, and planners have obtained substantial experience using the counts for planning and evaluation. Technologies include simple manual counts by volunteers, infrared technologies installed on utility or signage poles, inductive loops that use wires embedded in pathways to count bicyclists, and video recordings that capture movement along roadway segments or in crosswalks.
What the findings are about: This brief describes these types of technologies for counting bicycles and pedestrians and the benefits and challenges associated with different approaches. It also explains how counting data can be used to inform transportation planning, presents trends in levels of bicycle and pedestrian activity, and illustrates one goal of non-motorized traffic monitoring, namely, estimating bicycle and pedestrian traffic on streets in cities and towns.
Key Findings and Recommendations:
Many counting methods and technologies are available and key factors to consider in selecting a method include the purpose of the count, the level of accuracy needed, and the overall cost.
Counting initiatives show that levels of bicycle and pedestrian activity are increasing nationally but vary significantly, due to differences in infrastructure, neighborhood socio-demographics, urban design, land use, and other characteristics of the built environment.
Measures of bicycling and walking patterns, such as peak hour traffic and average daily bicycle traffic, are commonly used in planning and management to estimate daily or annual traffic, compare mode share, or design facilities.
Counts can be used to estimate demand for facilities, the potential benefits of investments, and the need for traffic control modifications.
Ryan, S. & Lindsey G. Counting Bicyclists and Pedestrians to Inform Transportation Planning. A Research Brief. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; February 2013. Available from: www.activelivingresearch.org.