Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Looking for Cycling Census Ideas

I am planning a morning of riding out to a particular street I know of that has traffic of all sorts, including bicycles, but no bike lanes. There's an intersection from a side street with a stop light, and a good place to sit to observe said intersection, along with the larger street. I plan to stay for about four hours, recording information about cyclists who ride by that spot.

I don't have a particular ax to grind. Although, the data I gather may lead me in a particular direction after I gather it and review it.  Would that be a census, or survey?

I tend to think bike lanes or sharrows should be painted on this particular stretch of street, but I'm not sure what sort of data would be compelling, or influential, toward that end. Number of cyclists per hour? Rate of vehicle/cycle conflicts? Number of cyclists who DON'T ride that area out of fear of 45 mph multi-lane traffic ? Hard to count that last one.

Weekday or weekend? I supposed weekday would be more compelling, although that would require taking a vacation day for me, and anyway, I am also interested in what the weekend traffic would be like, and how it would compare. So maybe a weekend day first, to get a baseline, to refine or adjust the data being gathered, and to see if a weekday would be worth it.

Herewith I present my initial thoughts. Let me know any suggestions you may have. Get up. Go ride.

Observe for four hours and record the following for each cyclist seen:
  • M/F/Unk
  • Adult/Child
  • Vehicular, Gutter, Sidewalk, Other
  • RW, WW (right way, wrong way)
  • Roadbike, Mtn Bike, Cruiser, tandem, other
  • Single, group
  • Helmet, no helmet 
  • Observed vehicle/bicycle/pedestrian/animal/other conflicts
  • Observed violations (specify) (near a stop light or signal preferably)
  • Lycra, No lycra
  • Additional notes


  1. What a splendid idea!
    You could create spread sheets and make some cool pie charts!
    I should think that the starting time of your observation would be something of importance.
    Morning? Afternoon? Lunch time?

  2. My data indicates evening traffic on a weekday is 4x that of the morning (% varies on different roads). In addition to the time, the signal interaction may also be useful. Most cyclists do not know how to trigger traffic signals. Weather and season will also affect cyclist numbers more than motor vehicles. Even in weekdays, some days will have heavier traffic than others. On my own commute, Fridays are lighter unless there is a special event on which sometimes make them very heavy. School schedules also affect traffic.

  3. I'd note the weather, just in case you repeat it another time. Also time of year, ie season?

  4. ....what am I thinking??!! I think you are from Arizona, so weather wouldn't factor in!

  5. limom, time of day shall be carefully collected, and duly noted.
    Steve, very interesting, and good, since I'm not really a morning person when I have a choice, and your data would suggest a weekday non-Friday afternoon, near a signal light. I can do that!
    Paddy Anne, weather could be a factor even in the land of bored weathermen! I shall also duly note the temperature and overall conditions. Thanks all! Now, to craft my vacation request: purpose or reason for request: 2 make some traffic piecharts 4 ma blog!

  6. I think thats a great reason to ask for a vacation request! You could say you are doing some volunteer work for the City....which, in a way, is true!

  7. I'm thinking the referenced intersection is in the slightly east side of north-central Phoenix? As you probably know, that's my turf, too, JRA!

    Send me a private email, and I'll be glad to cruise by there several times during your survey period, on each of my four working bikes, to REALLY pad the data:

    Phoenix Traffic Dept: "Holy smokes! According to this traffic survey, we need a full four-lanes exclusively for blue-colored bicycles!"

    All seriousness aside, I think your list of data types is good. I would make sure the observation time spans the rush hours of 3 to 7 PM.

  8. PaddyAnne - yes, although I think if I put "counting bicycles in the street" they would look at me funny.

    BluesCat - we're talking 44th Street or Lafayette Blvd area, there's three or four spots that looked promising. I've seen enough "interesting" behavior at the traffic circle from users of all sorts that I'm tempted to sit there. 3pm to 7pm sounds like a good time, well past morning, at the peak of my counting skills.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.