Category Archives: surveillance

FHWA report/guidance on how to count bikes and peds

For the engineer in you–and for those seeking to learn more about the ins and outs of various counting technologies, the new version of the Traffic Monitoring Guide is now released. The new version includes, for the first time ever, a chapter on non-motorized traffic monitoring (Chapter 4) and a format for bicycle and pedestrian count data which would allow it to be included in FHWA’s traffic monitoring dataset.

Active Transportation Indicators Webinar

Please join us for the Kaiser Permanente Active Transportation (AT) Indicators Webinar. During this one-hour meeting, we’ll report on the results of a four-month research and outreach effort to identify exemplary efforts in measuring various aspects of Active Transportation. It will include recommended indicators and monitoring techniques for three aspects of AT: the demand for AT at both the population and facility levels; the provision and quality of AT facilities; and and how well different places support AT. Following the Webinar, the final report: Measuring Active Transportation: Recommendations for Colorado will be made available for download. Please contact Vickie Jacobsen at Charlier Associates, Inc. ( or Jessica Hernandez ( with any questions and to receive an invitation.

Guest post: Adjusting for variation in bike counts (contribution from Krista Nordback)

The following is a guest post from Krista Nordback, PhD Candidate in Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado Denver and member of the Active Communities / Transportation (ACT) Research Group——-

PictureWith the bicycle arms race underway (which is a good thing because peer pressure always helps communities do more), it’s really hard to know who is winning.  If you read the blurbs, every city claims to be winning because every city is seeing gains in their bicycle counts. But how consistent are the counting approaches? How robust are the counting approaches? Even with consistent and robust approaches, how does one account for geographic or climate variations. Does a high bike count in Minneapolis during a sunny and 70 degree day ensure the same in mid January?  Probably not.

What is the best way to  compare cities with high counts in the summer, and low counts in the winter to cities with balmy weather all year round?  One way, borrowed from the motorized traffic world, is to calculate an average daily count for the whole year (aka AADT).  The National Bike and Pedestrian Documentation Project has done just that, offering factors to annualize your hourly bike and pedestrian counts.  While this was a notable step forward 4 years ago, it’s far from definitive. 

First, the idea that we can create one set of factors for the entire country leads to major inaccuracies.  Clearly, cultural, climate and terrain vary from city to city, which impact riding habits.  Furthermore, it may lull cities into thinking they don’t need their own continuous automated counts at all since it’s being done at the national level.

Second, annualizing counts based on a one or two hour count inherently lead to more inaccuracies.  There’s a reason traffic engineers abandoned the practice decades ago.  Even with relatively stable traffic counts, one or two hour counts leads to wildly varying estimates.  Basing estimates of annual average daily bicyclists (AADB) on one hour counts can be off by as much as six times actual AADB! 

Here’s the good news!  Cities around the country are installing their own automated bicycle and pedestrian counters that capture traffic 365-24-7.  Permanent automated counts sites provide cities the data they need to create their own, city specific annualization factors.  And, portable automated counters can count for a week at a time at various locations around the city giving a much better estimate of volumes at the location than an army of well meaning volunteers.

The time has come for the bicycle community to realize what motor traffic engineers have known for decades.  Too small a sample size (e.g., a 2 hour bike count) can be WORSE than nothing.  Let’s put those well-meaning volunteers to work doing something more meaningful, like moving, protecting, and maintaining our automated bike counters.  Only then can we robustly compare bike counts on the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis to those on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway in Austin.

Results from Active Transportation Workshop

I participated in (and helped organize) the Kaiser Permanente Active Transportation Indicators Workshop on March 15. The purpose of the workshop was to help establish a set of consensus indicators for measuring various aspects of Active Transportation (AT) in Colorado that meet the needs identified by the attendees’ organizations and other organizations with which they work. It was one data collection process, which is part of a larger project sponsored by Kaiser Permanente (KP) to: identify model examples of how to measure active transport; a particular focus is on those currently being used in Colorado; convene experts and stakeholders to advise the best data collection methods to use at a larger scale in Colorado; and recommend a menu of instruments or tools for gathering data for those indicators.

The Workshop was held at the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theater Program Facility in Englewood. There were 30 participants and 7 Project Team members.

After considerable discussion and vetting of different ideas, the following question was posed for voting after the morning session: what are the needs for which AT indicators should be developed. The top three responses are:

  1. For AT data to be better standardized (like we do for cars that would enable comparison and scaling), 18 votes
  2. To better assess the impacts of various AT projects (before and after evaluation), 14 votes
  3. To understand the needs of disadvantaged groups or other small areas, possibly focusing on key demographic populations, 13 votes
A full report and webinar of the project will be held April 19 at 8 am. Details to come.

Won’t Somebody Please Stop This Guy Stealing Bikes in New York City?

This video depicting Casie Neistat (of HBO fame) stealing his own bike is interesting from a human nature standpoint. Sure, it is a bit unsettling to see that no one in New York cares about bike theft, even when it is under their own nose. Sure, it is funny to see that the only comment he receives is from Hector providing tips on how to steal a bike more quickly.
But what is going on here?
Is it that bikes, as material possessions, are too plentiful for anyone to care?
Is that New Yorkers are so brash and too busy to care about such miniscule petty crimes, generally?
Is it that New Yorkers don’t care about cycling?
Is it that social capital in New York really that low?
What is the transferability of this story? Surely it would not have the same outcome in North Dakota.

CDC Expert Panel on active transportation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is presently convening an Active Transportation Expert Panel for a 2-day meeting. I helped serve on the planning committee for the workshop and offered one of the presentations titled, “Measuring Active Travel: Perspectives from the Transport Field,” with some key slides below.