FABB reported recently on data validating the 2020 bicycling boom and some of the lessons being drawn from the development. We are similarly reminded by the daily reports of COVID-19 data of how important information is for identifying problem areas, developing solutions, and monitoring progress to save lives and overcome threats to public safety.
The same need for detailed information holds for planning and evaluating bicycle infrastructure projects. Such data not only helps governments measure progress but enables officials and advocates to argue for the larger community that bicycle infrastructure provides an excellent return on investment of transportation dollars.
PeopleForBikes in Engage, Plan, Build, Measure: A Guide for City Leaders makes a strong case for the need for data to achieve these goals and has identified key items to measure. Below is our take on Fairfax County and Virginia Department of Transportation (FCDOT and VDOT) shortcomings in these areas that we want transportation officials to address in 2021.
Progress on completing the bike plan: There have been few updates on the progress of Fairfax County’s 2015 Master Bike Plan, and its page on the FCDOT website provides plans and maps but no information on completion amounts or rates.
Outcomes of individual projects: FCDOT and VDOT announce the completion of projects, but subsequent evaluations of results—with the exception of some road diet installations—are not readily available to the public. Measures of changes in vehicle traffic and speeds, bike traffic, and crashes would be extremely valuable. In addition, measures of changes in ridership by workers and customers around commercial areas and their economic impact after bike infrastructure is added would help with future planning.
Similarly, changes in ridership and comparisons with impacts on motorist travel times after the removal of cut-through traffic options in neighborhoods where traffic has been calmed seems key to demonstrating how simple and inexpensive interventions can improve transit for everyone. The Federal Highway Administration’s Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide suggests 16 categories of before-and-after measurements that deserve more attention and resources. At a minimum, Fairfax County needs a comprehensive counting program.
Community engagement: FCDOT and VDOT deserve relatively high marks for community engagement efforts, in our judgment. But, data on demographics and opinions is often lacking and historical data to measure changes and trends in public views on bicycling infrastructure is not readily available. The county also needs to do more to encourage riders and educate all road and trails users.
Behaviors and opinions: Adapting transportation plans to changing county needs within the master plan’s projected timelines, especially as demonstrated by the volatile situation caused by this year’s health crisis, puts a premium on ongoing data collection. Smartphones and GPS tracking are potential sources of a wide array of information about travel behavior and opinions as discussed in one of recent blogs. Bike share systems also offer detailed data on travel patterns. FABB would like to see this data made public to help advocates and others understand what people need and want.
Data is not just useful for planning bicycling infrastructure. The same mobility and impact data described above can help Fairfax County and regional transportation officials innovate to address, absent significant federal help, sustained service reductions in public transit.
Interested in helping shape the new “normal” in transportation? Come work with FABB and become an advocate for better bicycling. Contact us at [email protected].