Being able to measure bike data dictates what actually gets done for bikes. So how is bike data measured?
Why We Need To Know Bike Data
Bicycle NSW and others need to communicate with government, police, construction contractors, building managers and private developers about the needs of bike riders, but getting bike measurements is a challenge. The NSW Government’s desire for mode shift from private cars to bike riding means we need to know:
- who currently rides a bike, where they ride, and what would help them ride more
- who would like to ride a bike and doesn’t, or would like to ride more, where this is, and what would help them do so
National Cycling Participation Survey
The National Cycling Participation Survey is a telephone survey of a sample of the Australian population. Based on the answers, figures are extrapolated to represent the proportion of the population who ride a bike each week, month and annually. This tells us rider numbers but not where people ride, or where they need infrastructure to help them ride more often.
How Councils Collect Data
Councils and others conduct visual counting surveys, on one or more days of the year. They try to capture the direction people ride from and to, and some demographic information such as gender and age.
Some survey work also captures the type of bike ridden. This can tell us more about who rides, where, and about changes in demographics and bikes ridden. The problem is it only provides a snap-shot for the day(s) it is run, and people are usually positioned in locations where people ride to conduct the counts. This type of measurement does not tell us about non-riders and what they need, or about the places survey counters aren’t stationed where riders might be struggling for want of infrastructure.
Then there are static counters - devices installed to count bike traffic in a particular location. This is closer to the way motor vehicles are counted, and Transport for NSW has installed a number of these counters on pop-up cycleways and key pieces of infrastructure. Examining the available data, for the month of April we can see that the following counts for the month were:
We can also see that 249,607 bikes were counted in April on all of the cycleways where counters were installed. This tells us rider numbers, but not where riders were going, or what might make people ride more. ‘Heat maps’ of the routes taken by share bike users and food couriers is another way to measure where people ride and the journeys they need to take.
“When it comes to bike riding data, measurement is complicated, but to make positive change we really need to understand the numbers,” said Bicycle NSW General Manager of Public Affairs, Bastien Wallace.
“Understanding what currently happens is important to measuring the usage and impact of infrastructure, and we are pleased to see more measurement happening and data made accessible,” said Bastien.
Bicycle NSW also supports surveys and community engagement efforts to understand what would help people who currently don’t currently ride a bike to feel comfortable to do so.