As the 2010 regional bike count nears, Pima Association of Government officials are devising a plan to better track recreational cyclists.
In the past, the annual bike count has focused on commuters by scheduling the count on weekdays and during prime commuting hours.
Ann Chaneka, a PAG transportation planner and the person in charge of the bike count, said she wants to get a better idea of how many recreational cyclists are using the roads.
The bike count numbers are used for grant applications, infrastructure planning and the League of American Bicyclists’ bike friendly status. The LAB has said the region’s biking numbers need to increase in order to earn a platinum designation.
The LAB has primarily focused on commuting numbers, but Pima County’s bike and pedestrian program manager Matt Zoll said it shouldn’t matter what kind of trip it is.
“I think all trip purposes are important in one way or another,” Zoll said. “Work trips typically account for only 18-20 percent of trips. If we don’t try to count other trips, I think we are missing a pretty significant percentage of people out there.”
The city’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager, Tom Thivener, said it would be good to track recreational riders over time, but his focus is on using bicycles for transportation.
“I’m a transportation planner so first and foremost I am geared toward trying to make our roads as safe as possible for transportation purposes,” Thivener said. “As kind of a nice side benefit we have also made our roads extremely bike friendly for recreational cycling, which is great for controlling obesity and getting people active and healthy.”
Chanecka is investigating ways to count recreational cyclists. She said they are planning more weekend counts at areas popular with recreational cyclists. She is also hoping to work with ride leaders to document the number of riders who attend a ride and possibly creating a database where cyclists can record each of their rides and distances.
Several websites already allow users to record their rides and Chanecka said she would try to get their raw data to get a better idea about recreational cyclists in the region.
In addition to the lower tech solutions that require volunteers and action from cyclists, Chanecka is investigating automated bike counters that can be placed in the roadway or bike path to automatically track cyclists.
“The tools to count recreation cycling are out there,” Thivener said. “They make devices that will make our job a lot easier. We can have the devices up 365 days a years and count cyclists 24-7.”
Chanecka said the challenge is the lack of funding for the bike count. According to Chanecka there is no money in the budget for the bike count and the counting devices start at $2,000.
Chanecka said she and Thivener were working together to find money to purchase the devices.