It’s a goal of the Washington State Department of Transportation to get more people in the state walking and biking. But since it’s impossible to measure any progress toward that goal without actual numbers, volunteers have been hitting the streets each year since 2008 to count the number of people biking and walking by.
The number of count locations has more than doubled in the past five years, as has the number of “non-motorized travelers” who got counted. Last year, volunteers counted at nine locations around Spokane and, for the first time, four locations in Spokane Valley. The Cascade Bicycle Club, which organizes the count, is currently looking for several hundred volunteers.
The number of people counted walking and biking has generally been increasing, if you compare a selection of the same locations from year to year. Data indicates a 10 percent increase, WSDOT says in the 2012 report.
Starting last year, the counters also noted whether cyclists were wearing helmets — statewide, 84.7 percent were. (In Spokane it was 70 percent.)
The count tries to minimize the inconsistencies from year to year, but that’s not completely possible — weather is a big factor — so the point of the study is to look for patterns over a number of years rather than comparing one year to the next. The long-term goal is to double the number of people walking and biking by 2027.
Early October is considered the best time of year for the count: The weather’s pleasant, colleges are in session and families are back from their summer vacations.
This year, the count happens on one of the first three days of October. (The range helps avoid unusual traffic in a particular city due to a sports game or special event, for example.)
Here’s some of what we know from last year’s survey:
About twice as many people were walking as biking.
The evening time period from 4-6 pm was busier than the morning period from 7-9 am.
In Spokane and Spokane Valley, about 2,500 people were counted. Compared to the state as a whole, bicyclists in the Spokane area were less likely to be wearing helmets.
They were also less likely to be women. (Ladies on bikes were outnumbered by men on bikes in every city.)
If you’re interested in volunteering for the 2013 count, find out more and sign up here.