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Estimating Bicycle and Pedestrian Activity Levels in Chittenden County
- By Jody Ciano
In spite of many physical, personal and societal benefits from walking and biking, relatively little data are available on the levels of bicycle and pedestrian travel. More comprehensive and accurate information about bicycle/pedestrian miles of travel would help researchers and policy makers assess the adequacy of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as well as the accident rates associated with these modes of travel. The UVM TRC, in partnership with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCMPO), is working to fill this crucial data gap for Chittenden County.
For several years, the CCMPO has been using automated counters to collected bicycle/pedestrian counts at various locations throughout the county. Due to technical limitations, the automated counters only have been used on shared-use paths and other areas where bicycle/pedestrians are physically separated from the roadway. Because these sites tend to be the most highly traveled segments of the bicycle/pedestrian network, it is not possible to accurately extrapolate county wide bicycle/pedestrian travel levels from these sites alone.
TRC researchers Jim Sullivan and Jonathan Dowds identified a portable close circuit television system as the best means for collecting count data at sites where the automated counter is impractical. By mounting the system on utility poles, tree or other roadside structures, count data can be collected at any location from a busy highway to a rural dirt road. Beginning in June of 2011, Sullivan and Dowds have mounted the camera at more than 25 different sites, creating a more geographically robust set of count data.
Incorporating data from this diverse set of spatial dispersed count sites enables the researchers to estimate the total bicycle/pedestrian miles of travel in the county. Preliminary results indicate that total bicycle/pedestrian miles of travel could exceed 70 million miles per year, significantly higher than prior survey results had suggested.