Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bike-Ped Counts Help Address Connectivity Issues

Manchester Bridge
The Manchester Bridge, which leads into the city proper, is just one of the many bike lanes used for this week's BikePed count put on by Bike Walk RVA. (Photo Credit: Phil Riggan)

Phill Riggan is an avid bike commuter in Richmond. If you follow him on the exercise app Strava, you can see he cycled over 20 miles to work almost every day. However, that was before the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on his travels and made him work from home.

So when the opportunity came up to head out to a few locations in the city to count pedestrians and cyclists, Riggan jumped at the chance.

“I had to get out of the house. So it was a good excuse to get out if nothing else. And of course, you know, I like to bike, so I was trying to bike to those locations as well,” Riggan says.

Riggan, who works for the Richmond regional transportation planning organization known as Plan RVA, has been doing the counts for four years. 

Twice a year, in May and September, roughly 100 volunteers get armed with clipboards and pencils and take to the streets to do the counts. 

The counts were started back in 2014 by the nonprofit Bike Walk RVA, which falls under the Sports Backers umbrella. 

Data is collected from almost 30 locations around the city. ShaCoria Shelton, lead organizer at Bike Walk RVA, says the group uses the data to help plan future developments, and to give feedback to city planners on existing work. 

She says, “We want to see before a project goes in, how many people are using this location. And then after the project is completed, what are the changes in use."

The data is also sent to the National Bike and Pedestrian Documentation Project. This nationwide effort provides a consistent model of data collection and ongoing data for use by planners, governments, and bicycle and pedestrian advocates.

All that data collection is in service to the main goal: Making sure everyone can get around the city. “We want to make sure that everyone who uses any types of means of transportation has the ability to do so safely,” Shelton says.

Volunteers usually count the same spot for three days, between 5 and 7 p.m. This year, the last day of counting was cancelled due to Thursday’s rain.

For his two days of counts, Riggan was situated at two different locations. First, he was at the corner of Malvern Avenue between Hanover and Grove Streets.  

“I had like 44 pedestrians passed by in that two hour time frame and 32 cyclists,”  Riggan says. “Some of those were parents pulling little kids on their bikes or, you know, parents pushing strollers.” Riggan says he counts those kids, too, in the totals. “
That was close to 80 people.”

Riggan’s next location was the Manchester Bridge, around traffic that goes too fast for most parents with strollers. The people he’d normally be counting were still crossing the river, just down below on the car-free T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge.

 “I kept looking down from the [Manchester] Bridge at the Potterfield [Bridge] and how many people were down there and I was a little jealous of the difference. So many people were down at the Potterfield,” Riggan says. 

Despite the longing to count those on the Potterfield Bridge, Riggan says he did manage to count 50 cyclists on the Manchester Bridge, mostly of the more ‘hardcore’ solo rider variety.

A recent addition to the counts is the number of bikes seen on the front of GRTC buses, Riggan says. 

“I only saw two, but that's something else they're trying to count now,” he says.

Riggan says he likes to help out Sports Backers and Bike Walk RVA with the counts because they’re trying to increase active transportation connections and help the biking and walking community. And because their efforts have a natural synergy with his own work.

“I have a lot of participation from Bike Walk RVA for the things that I do with Plan RVA. And so it's even more pleasing, to have a chance to get back to help them socially when they're doing something that's beneficial to the area,” Riggan says.

Editor's Note:  We made a slight change to a quote to improve clarity. 

Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
Related Stories