I wrote a post last week about The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s 2010 Benchmarking Report.
I got to chat with Tom Thivener, the city of Tucson’s bike and pedestrian coordinator about the report. Here are excepts from our conversation:
Where do they get the information for the report?
I was one of the sources of information for that report. The alliance sent that request back in 2008, for their first report and I was one of several sources for information on Arizona and on Tucson. I filled out a questionnaire as best as I could. The same thing happened for this new report last year, but I was not a source for all the information.
How accurate is the information?
A lot of the information they get is from the census. I regard that as being highly accurate. You can compare it to Portland or any other city and know that the same methodology was used.
The stuff that is a little more subjective is the stuff that you actually get from the bike coordinators. For example, if you look at the way that the city of Las Vegas, or whoever answered the questions for Las Vegas, they somehow said they have 750 miles of bike ways or bike lanes. So if you look on the page (of the report) that says who has the most bike lanes, it says Las Vegas, but if you goto the Vegas bike map it will say, ‘we have 250 miles.’ They have a plan to do 750 miles to over 20 years.
Some of that information is not perfect, but I think the alliance is doing the best job that they can to keep it straight.
One of the little issues I had to clarify with them, that I am not sure that all the jurisdictions are following when they submit their data is; they ask how many staff people work on bike/ped. You know, that are dedicated to bike/ped stuff. I said, ‘well do you want information for just the city of Tucson or for the region because we tally up our numbers by the region here.’ They said, ‘no, no just do it strictly by the city of Tucson.’ So when I gave them the bike lane numbers and how many people work here it was strictly city of Tucson. Some of those other jurisdictions maybe didn’t ask the question and they just said, ‘Ohh OK we’ll just include everything.’
Some of it I wonder about, but it’s not a big deal. I think it is a good report, it provides a baseline, a benchmark and that is what what their goal is for data to track over time. In 20 years you can really see how things have evolved.
How useful is a report like this?
It helps having a document like that to push for change, push for more funding on a federal level. I know that alliance is involved with some of the others that help lobby congress for more bike/ped monies.
It is curious to see what other jurisdictions are up to. That is just a snapshot. I was kind of surprised so few jurisdictions were actually experimenting with bike signals, bike boxes, sharrows and stuff like that. It kind of led me to believe that we are doing a lot of pretty cool things here in Tucson. The attitude is right in so many ways from the citizens to political leaders to directors of the DOTs (Department of Transportation).
I think it is just another tool in the toolbox. It is great that somebody is keeping track of this information. It could be handy to help jurisdictions write grants. You always need good information to throw on grant applications.