Header for US Department of Transportation Blog

You are here

When it comes to Bike-Ped data, you can count on FHWA

When it comes to Bike-Ped data, you can count on FHWA

Earlier this year, Secretary Foxx unveiled a forward-looking vision of what a better transportation system for the nation looks like, and began a dialog of how to build it. This draft framework, Beyond Traffic, uses current trends to provide a glimpse of the next 30 years.

Among other items, Beyond Traffic highlights the increased activity of bicyclists and pedestrians on and near America’s roads. Beyond Traffic notes that cycling and foot traffic currently accounts for roughly half of all trips taken that are under a mile, and more than 10 percent of all trips of any length.  You can imagine how those numbers might change over the next three decades as our population grows and our urban areas get increasingly dense.

Transportation planners in all levels of government are noting the implications of these trends and are working to help travelers who wish to get to their destination by bike or on foot.  As part of DOT's Safer People, Safer Streets initiative, the Secretary has challenged local elected officials to take significant action to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities over the next year.  By the end of March, some 200 cities had committed to the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets.

San Francisco bike counter

One of the focus activities of the Mayors’ Challenge is to collect more --and better-- data on pedestrian and bicycle activity to support planning and investment decisions as well as targeted safety improvements. But that is easier said than done.

So this year, the Federal Highway Administration is taking an important step to help communities generate pedestrian and bicycle data by providing grants to ten metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) that will use the funding to purchase counting equipment and support their participation in FHWA's new “Bicycle-Pedestrian Count Technology Pilot Program.”

Manual counting
Will manual counting become a practice of the past?

In addition to the equipment, each recipient will receive technical support from FHWA and the Pedestrian Bicycle Information Center. These ten MPOs will begin work this spring, engage in a range of counting activities throughout the summer and fall, provide early experiences and initial data by December, and complete the pilot early next year:

  • Providence Metropolitan Planning Organization (Providence, Rhode Island)
  • Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (Buffalo, New York)
  • Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (Richmond, Virginia)
  • Puerto Rico Metropolitan Planning Organization (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
  • Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization (Palm Beach County, Florida)
  • Fresno Council of Governments (Fresno, California)
  • Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • South-East Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
  • Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization (Memphis, Tennessee)

We expect this pilot program to kickstart a new era for best practices in bike-ped counting. It will introduce MPOs to the technologies best suited to their needs, in a guided and flexible manner.

Each MPO will receive technical assistance in the process of setting up the counters; uploading, downloading and analyzing the data; and --most importantly-- using the data to improve the planning process in their community.

After a year of using these portable counters, the 10 pilot MPOs will share their data and their experiences with FHWA and each other. We, in turn, will take lessons learned from the pilot as we plan follow-up efforts, including a possible second round of awards.

In our challenge to go Beyond Traffic, using good data to drive decisions that help pedestrians and bicyclists is not just the future. For ten MPOs, the Federal Highway Administration, and DOT, it’s now.

Gregory Nadeau is Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

Post new comment


What was the selection criteria for the pilot cities that were chosen?

What was the selection criteria for the pilot cities that were chosen?

Getting good data is crucial. But the hurdle is that getting good bike and pedestrian data can be difficult (and expensive) with current technologies. Our experience working with local and regional government has been that many bike-ped traffic counters aren't always cost-effective. Ideally, we need to get to a point where we can find a balance between bike-ped data collection technology and cost-effectiveness. We're not there yet, but getting closer. This initiative looks like a good step forward.
Submit Feedback >