Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quantifying cyclists

How many percent of cyclists do you have? How many kilometers/miles do people cycle on average per year? In Austria these numbers are around 7% and 176 km/year.

But how to obtain this information and what does it mean? Is there a difference between people walking/cycling/driving to a train station to take a train? Does it tell you why people go somewhere, e.g. for shopping, to work or simply for leisure? How to take into account the distances and time spend on traveling?

It's not always easy to read statistics and one has to be very careful what has actually been measured and what hasn't. One of the most important numbers in traffic planning is the modal share (or modal split) which describes the percentage of travelers using a particular type of transportation, generally presented in a pie chart or graph.

Development of the modal share in Vienna:
ÖV = public transport, MIV = individual motor traffic,
FUSS = pedestrians, RAD = bicycle

But how to actually obtain these numbers? There are many different ways of counting depending on the information you want to get. There are long-term automated ways of counting (e.g. using built-in inductive loops) and short-term but representative manual ones (e.g. people sitting at the road doing tally sheets). I did a lot of these tally sheets and license plate tracking myself when I was at school -- partly because of interest, and also to earn some extra pocket money.

It's not only about counting though. Sometimes you have to stop people to ask them where they are actually coming from and where they are going. That's how one obtains the purpose of the trips (shopping, work, school etc.). For some surveys questionnaires are also send out by post, telephone interviews are done and so on.

For more general information on traffic counting see chapter 9 of the very interesting book "The Geography of Transport Systems" (freely accessible online).

And how to count cyclists? Most of the intrusive methods don't work for bicycles, e.g. because they are not heavy enough. After I saw a radar box at the ring bike path, I searched the net and found several surveys carried out by Snizek+Partner in Vienna here. It turned out in interviews that most cyclists between the age 26 and 55 use the bicycle to get to work although overall the leisure factor is the highest (especially for people older than 55). The abnormally lowest aims for cycling are education and shopping. It's also uncommon that there are far more men than women cycling in Vienna. The average cycled distance is 3.7km (cities with more cyclists generally have less). According to their numbers from 2006, the percentage of cyclists in the modal share in Vienna is only 4.1%, but lately I heard about 5.1%. The city council probably won't reach its goal of 8% in 2010.

Number of cyclists at the Argentinierstraße in 2008

Unfortunately, there are not many numbers about cyclists in all of Austria. According to an article in derStandard (in German) the last half reasonable statistics are from 1995 -- we only had 5% cyclists in the modal share back then -- and the numbers are mostly extrapolations from a few regional surveys. Although visually the number of cyclists has increased, the government doesn't even know if their goal of 10% is already reached.

Profound knowledge is important though, because it's easier to convince politicians and citizens to invest in bicycle infrastructure if there are many cyclists. Numbers are also necessary to dimension bike facilities correctly and to learn how to increase the number of cyclists by mobilizing unused potential. So let's start counting. Hard facts should be on hand in two years, they claim.


lehommeaulevelo said...

That is interesting,we had a Survey as well a few Years ago in Dublin. We had an awful lot of Cyclists Pre 1965 and then they Discovered the Motorcar and became Car Centric,but there was always a Hard Core of Peope who just loved Cycling. It was discovered there was an awful lot more Cyclists on the Road after the Survey but still tiny compared to the Old Days. Now however Presently there is more People than ever Cycling because of this Recession,they just cannot Afford the Petrol Polluting Machines anymore.Also there are more People afraid of getting Obese and Contracting Type 2 Diabetes,Cycling is a rather Pleasant way of Keeping Fit.
All good ,while we have Cycle Lanes now for some Years it is all just token the Police never Enforce No Parking or Driving on them. Also the Majority of them are to narrow,because of these Cycle Lanes Motorists think they can drive Directly on the Line. It is Particulary Dangerous at Rush Hour in Mornin and Evening

However because of more Cyclists now there is more of a Clout for Cycling Organisations putting Pressure on the Government to stop being Pro Car Centric.

anna said...

Hi lehommeaulevelo, thanks a lot for you comment. Actually I've lived in Ireland for almost a year in 2003, and kind of know some of your infrastructure, although I think in the meantime things have changed a bit to the better (e.g. the Luas in Dublin). At the time I was in Ireland, a lot of roadworks went on, largely subsidized by the EU. I found it kind of sad that they didn't e.g. invest more in the railway network and bicycle infrastructure when they really had the chance to change people's way of commuting.

lehommeauvelo said...

We had a Decent Railway Service Years ago ,I wont say it was Brilliant but it was not Bad. However 30 Years ago they started Dismantling Railway Lines mostly in the West of Ireland and Building up the Road Network. We had a Railway Freight Service back then but nowadays this is mostly Ended being given over to HGV's. The Government is trying to Rebuild the Railway Network on the West Coast that they Destroyed Years ago. This is because of the Continual Protests from People who were Denied this Service. So they have started to do something but it will probably be put on Hold because of this Recession. They bought New Trains but unlike heretofore there was no Provision for Bicycles,we always had the Guards van or Caboose at the Back but they done away with this on the New Trains. Because of all the Complaints from Cycling Organisations they had to put in a Limited Space for Bicycles. This is Totally against the EU Policy of Wanting more Facilities for Cyclists on Public Transport.

The Government just Copied the UK with their Totally Inadequate Cycling Infrastructure, it is all just Token. Now with this Recession everything is mostly Put on Hold ,but not the Motorway Building ,it is all still Geared to the Car.

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