WBW: Executive Summary

With the rapid growth of cities, transportation has become an important feature of modern life. Many people use personal vehicles and public transportation, but the popularity of other means of travel is starting to rise. Biking and walking recreationally or to commute is becoming more prevalent, especially in urban settings. However, some urban environments do not support safe and accessible biking and walking. Because of this, cities need more and better planning for pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets, including obtaining better information on where biking and walking infrastructure is most needed.
Counting programs, which either use volunteers or automated devices to track pedestrians and cyclists passing by a certain area during a specified time, have been successfully used to provide information on the paths and roadways traveled by non-motorized vehicles in many cities around the world. Utilization of such counting programs has led to the planning and building of infrastructure that has made walking and biking accessible and safe for a city’s people. Worcester has minimal walking and biking infrastructure; therefore, it is evident that improvements should be made. A bicycle and pedestrian counting program implemented in Worcester would provide data on where and what improvements need to be made to the walking and biking infrastructure. Introducing a sustainable counting program to the City of Worcester would require the strong support of the city government and a majority of the population.
WalkBike Worcester, this project’s sponsor, has recognized the City of Worcester’s limited support for pedestrians and cyclists. The goal of this project was to develop a recommendation for the adaptation of the Local Access Score tool to establish a sustainable bicycle and pedestrian counting program. If implemented, a well-done counting program will help Worcester prioritize locations throughout the city where walking and biking infrastructure needs to be improved. We achieved this goal through accomplishing four objectives:

  • We determined Worcester’s current capacity and obstacles faced in establishing a sustainable counting program;
  • We determined how optimal counting locations can be selected using the Local Access Score;
  • We determined the procedures for completing bicycle and pedestrian counts;
  • We verified the devised procedures’ effectiveness and replicability by a third party.

We conducted interviews, researched counting programs in other cities, and performed a walk audit to gather information about walking and biking in Worcester. We also verified and tested the procedures for performing a manual count and using the Local Access Score to ensure that they can be completed successfully by a third party.
Bicycle and pedestrian counts have not been done in Worcester because of limited funding and resources to purchase counting devices and to perform counts. However, Worcester’s departments have the capacity to implement a counting program by collaborating with one another and performing manual counts using volunteers.
Human counters equipped with an appropriate counting form can do manual counts. We determined manual counting is the best starting option for a counting program in Worcester since it is inexpensive and can use volunteers who do not take away from any of the city’s limited resources. We have produced counting forms with a protocol for any organization to manage and perform the counts.
Selecting the locations that are most trafficked by bicycles and pedestrians is necessary to gather the most appropriate data. Since locating these busy locations can be difficult, we have provided a manual that uses the MAPC Local Access Score to assist with selecting counting locations. We found the counting form and the location selection manual we developed were simple and straightforward to use based on feedback from volunteer users.
We recommend that the City of Worcester adopt a manual bicycle and pedestrian counting program. Completing non-motorized traffic counts manually allows for sustainability since limited funding is required and data can be collected as desired. Per our recommendation, volume should be the sole focus of the counting program initially. This will avoid any confusion for the count coordinators and counters. Manual counts require a workforce of people, so an organization or city department must take on the task of managing the program and complying with the protocols and guidelines. Volunteers are the best source of manpower to carry out the counts and require minimal training; WalkBike Worcester is an excellent source of volunteers. We also recommend selecting locations for the manual counts using the Location Selection Manual, seeing as it adds a level of robustness to the program.
Although we recommend Worcester to pilot a manual counting program, automatic counters should be considered as a feasible option for the City of Worcester. The most effective automatic counter for Worcester by far is the video camera technology that has the ability to distinguish between vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. If the city chooses to invest in automatic counting devices, we recommend that the City of Worcester purchase those video cameras that can make distinctions among the things that are passing its range-of-view.
Since we were unable to determine the desire to bike in the city because of time constraints, we recommend conducting future research on the population’s desire for biking in Worcester. Such research can show the city the population’s demand, or a lack thereof, for making accommodations for cyclists.