It is important to develop ways to measure the quality of walking and cycling conditions to identify problems and prioritize improvements. This section describes such techniques.
It is often useful to survey the public to identify the problems they perceive with current pedestrian and cycling conditions, and opportunities and priorities for improvements. Public survey forms can be distributed throughout a region, or be targeted at a particular area. Survey forms can be handed out along a sidewalk, path or roadway, can be attached to bicycles and automobiles parked at a study site, or can be distributed through local newsletters and employers. The Partnership for a Walkable America has an Internet-based survey form to evaluate walking conditions (www.nsc.org/walk/wkcheck.htm) that could be replicated in individual communities.
Special consideration should be given to pedestrian and bicycle planning along urban and suburban arterials, highways near urban areas, and highways that connect to parks, schools, residential neighborhoods, employment centres, and other trip generators.
Nonmotorized Transport Survey Questions55
Are your neighbourhoods designed to promote walking and cycling to get to school, work, recreation, transit, and retail outlets? Are these facilities used?
If these facilities are not used, what improvements could make them more accessible?
Is street lighting adequate?
Are sidewalks maintained, repaired, and cleared of snow in the winter?
Are bike lanes part of the roads?
Does your community master plan include facilities for cycling and walking?
Are there cycling organizations in your community promoting the use of bicycles?
Are there bicycle racks at transit stations and outside municipal facilities?
Do school organizations promote walking, cycling, and safety programs for both?
Do schools and workplaces provide secure bicycle parking?
Are local government officials aware of the walking and cycling needs of neighbourhoods?
What measures could be taken to calm traffic in your residential neighbourhoods?
Can community groups be encouraged to organize bicycle safety workshops?
Do local businesses support walking and cycling to their stores?
What groups might be involved in promoting active transportation in your community?
Are residents encouraged to keep sidewalks clean and clear of snow?
Is there bicycle parking near shopping areas and other destinations?
Pedestrian and bicycle collision data can help identify barriers and hazards to nonmotorized travel. Locations with frequent pedestrian or cycling crashes indicate some combination of high risk or heavy use, both of which can justify facility improvements. Crash analysis can be used to identify a variety of possible safety interventions, including pedestrian and bicycle facility improvements, traffic management and traffic calming to reduce vehicle speeds and volumes, and increased traffic safety education and law enforcement for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Pedestrian and cycling collisions tend to be underreported, so a variety of data collection methods may be needed.56
Crash data should be evaluated by type of crash and contributing factors, pedestrian and cyclist demographics, location type (for example, pedestrian crashes can be categorized by intersection crosswalk, midblock crosswalk, midblock no crosswalk, driveways, etc.) to identify possible patterns. Smaller communities may only have few pedestrian/cyclist crash reports to work with. Larger communities may find it valuable to establish an ongoing program to analyze pedestrian/cyclist crash data, and integrate it into a municipal mapping program.
Some transportation agencies use volunteers or hired college students to perform field surveys of pedestrian and cycling conditions. If possible, surveys should include special user groups, such as people in wheelchairs and elderly pedestrians, particularly in areas they frequent. The box below lists typical information to collect.
Field Survey Data to Collect (as appropriate)
Roadway vehicle traffic volumes and speeds.
Intersection design, roadway and road shoulder widths, and pavement conditions.
Nonmotorized traffic volumes and speeds, and available accident data.
Special hazards to walking and cycling (potholes, dangerous drain grates on road shoulders and curb lanes, etc.).
Curb cuts, ramps and other universal access facilities.
Lighting along streets and paths.
Presence of parked cars adjacent to the traffic lane.
Bicycle parking facilities, public washrooms, and other services along trails and bike routes.
Security, cleanliness, vandalism, litter, and aesthetic conditions.
Community demographics (age, income, etc.)
Presence of activity centers that attract nonmotorized travel (schools, colleges, resorts, etc.)
Land use factors, including density and mix, street connectivity, and building site design.
Topography and climate.
When evaluating facilities it is important to clearly maintain the distinction between nominal (“in name”) and functional (“working condition”) dimensions. For example, many sidewalks and paths are nominally 1.8 to 2 metres wide, but functionally they may be much narrower, due to objects such as telephone poles and signposts located in their right of way, and due to surface failures, such as cracks and potholes. As a result, a walkway that meets technical specifications may be inadequate for some potential users. Similarly, a bike lane may be useless if it has poor surface conditions or is frequently used for vehicle parking.
It may be difficult to obtain consistent evaluations of roadway conditions by different surveyors. Some cyclists are comfortable riding on roads with heavy, high-speed traffic, and are critical of paths that restrict cycling riding speed due to design limitations. Others have the opposite preferences. This problem can be minimized by establishing clear evaluation criteria. For example, rather than simply rating a highway condition as “good” or “bad” for cycling it may be better to record traffic volumes, shoulder width, shoulder condition, and “special problems for cyclists.” Training and supervision can help guarantee consistency between survey teams.
Table A3-1 summarizes a simplified method for evaluating walking and cycling level-of-service. Scores: A = >17; B = >14-17; C = >11-14; D = >7-11; E = >3-7; F = 3 or less.
Table A3-1 Bicycle and Pedestrian Level-of-Service for Congestion Management57
Roads are usually considered transportation links, but they can also be barriers, especially to nonmotorized travel.58 The “barrier effect” reduces walking and cycling mobility, and increases driving.59 This is not to imply that drivers intentionally cause harm, but rather that such impacts are unavoidable when fast, heavy vehicles share space with more vulnerable road users.
Cycling Condition Evaluation Techniques
Table A3-2 shows one method for evaluating cyclist stress levels, taking into account traffic speed, volume, type, operating space, and number of hindrances (intersections and commercial driveways) on a specific stretch of roadway.60
Table A3-2 Cyclist Stress Level Values
Posted speed limit (km/hr)
Vehicles/hr per traffic lane
Percentage of truck traffic
Curb lane width (m)
Commercial driveways and intersections per km
These values are used to calculate Cycling Suitability Rating in Table A3-2.
Road is reasonably safe for all types of cyclists.
Road accommodates casual and experienced cyclists, but needs improvement to accommodate child cyclist.
Road accommodates experienced cyclists, but needs improvement to accommodate casual and child cyclists.
Needs improvements to accommodate experienced cyclists, not recommended for casual and child cyclists.
May be unsuitable for all cycling.
A more detailed system called the Bicycle Compatibility Index incorporates these factors:61
Presence of bicycle lane or paved shoulder.
Bicycle lane or paved shoulder width.
Curb lane width.
Curb lane volume.
Other lane volume.
Average traffic speed.
Presence of parking lane with more than 30% occupancy.
Type of roadside development.
Right turn lanes.
Pedestrian Condition Evaluation Techniques
Generally available demographic, land use, and transportation planning data can be used to estimate pedestrian travel demand.62 Traffic engineers often use Level of Service (LOS) to evaluate roadway performance for motor vehicle traffic. Pedestrian LOS for street crossings has been defined based on pedestrian delay, as shown in Table A3-4.63 Crosswalk walking speeds are estimated at 1.2 metres per second for most areas, and 1.0 m/s for crosswalks serving large numbers of older pedestrians.
Table A3-4 Pedestrian Road Crossing Level of Service (LOS)64
Level of Service
Likelihood of Pedestrian Noncompliance
* Average Delay Per Pedestrian in Seconds
A more sophisticated model, called the Walking Security Index (WSI), takes into account a wide range of variables that affect pedestrian safety, comfort, and convenience at roadway intersections, as summarized in Table A3-5. The “Fathom” model uses a technique called visibility graph analysis, which looks at how visually accessible any point is within a building or area.65 This is found to correlate well with observed flows because pedestrians are sensitive to lines of sight and visual access.
Table A3-5 Walking Security Index Variables66
1. No. of lanes.
3. Grade (incline).
4. Turning lanes.
5. Curb cut at intersections.
6. Stop bar distance from crosswalk.
7. Sight lines
8. Peak vehicle volumes.
9. Vehicle types.
10. Trip purpose.
11. Turning movements.
12. Pedestrian volumes.
13. Pedestrian age.
16. Ice/snow/slush removal.
17. Pedestrian-vehicle collisions.
18. Pedestrian-vehicle conflicts.
19. Vehicle moving violations.
The four criteria below are each rated on a scale from 1-3, the total of which represents the Pedestrian Environmental Factor (PEF).67 The results were found to correlate well with the use of non-automobile travel in an urban area. Urban neighborhoods with a high PEF tend to have twice the walk/bicycle mode share as the overall average, as much as five times greater than areas with the lowest PEF.
Ease of street crossings. This is based on street width, traffic volumes, and speeds.
Sidewalk continuity. Sidewalks that do not connect create barriers to pedestrian travel. A pedestrian network is only as good as its weakest link, particularly for people with physical disabilities. Even problems that appear minor to able-bodied pedestrians may be a major barrier to people with significant mobility constraints.
Local street characteristics (grid vs. cul de sac). A grid street system provides continuity, allowing more direct access to destinations.
Topography. Steep slopes create barriers to pedestrians.
An article in Parking Today suggested Level of Service ratings for pedestrian access to parking, which may be considered appropriate for walking trips in general. Acceptable walking distances are affected by degree of weather protection, climate, line of site (whether pedestrians can see their destination), and “friction” (interruptions and constraints along the way, such as cross traffic). The table below summarizes the findings.
Level of Service By Walking Trip Distance (in Feet)68
Through Surface Lot
Inside Parking Facility
Prioritizing Improvements and Selecting Preferred Options
There are four factors to consider when evaluating barriers and gaps in pedestrian and cycling networks, and when prioritizing improvements:
Level of demand. How many people would use a facility if it were improved. In general, this increases around higher density areas, such as business districts and higher-density residential areas, and around attractions, such as schools and parks.69
Degree of barrier. This can range from minor difficulties (such as requiring pedestrians to use a longer route than if a proposed improvement is made) to a total barrier to walking and bicycling. The degree of barrier also depends on who is traveling, and under what conditions. People with physical disabilities are more vulnerable to such barriers.
Potential benefits. This refers to the benefits that could result from increased walking and cycling on that corridor. For example, improvements that encourage nonmotorized travel to substitute for driving may provide more value to a community than improvements used primarily for recreational cycling and walking.
This information can be presented in a matrix, such as the one below. Note that the concept of “cost” is inverted into “affordability” so all criteria can be ranked from high (best) to low.
Table A3-6 Project Evaluation Matrix Example
It may be desirable to develop a more quantitative evaluation process. For example, proposals can be ranked from zero (worst) to 5 (best) for each criterion. The criteria can also be given a weight. These are then multiplied to create total points for each project. Rankings can be done by a small group of technical experts, a technical/public committee, or through a public survey.
Table A3-7 Project Evaluation Matrix Example
Each criteria value is multiplied times the criteria weight factor.
Another approach is to develop a cost value that incorporates various criteria. For example, it may be possible to calculate dollars per additional bicycle commuter, or dollars per pedestrian/cyclist-kilometre using a new facility. This can be calculated by dividing the annualized project cost by the number of projected users.
A more sophisticated investment analysis technique uses net present values. This involves estimating all future costs and benefits, depreciating these based on a discount rate, and using a spreadsheet to calculate their net present value. The figure below demonstrates this with the example of a new pathway that has $1,300,000 in construction costs during the first three years, $20,000 annual maintenance costs, 200,000 annual trips the first year that increases by 3% annually, with an estimated benefit of $1.00 per trip. Note that the values decline over time due the discount rate. In this particular example, the net present value of costs is $1.4 million, while the net present value of benefits is $2.4 million.
Figure 1 Net Present Value Investment Analysis
However, such “condensed” values may exclude important factors. For example, two projects may have the same cost per additional bicycle commuter, but one provides far more recreational bicycling. Or, perhaps one provides more environmental, aesthetic, or equity benefits. Such differences should be described in evaluation reports.
The city of Portland uses two factors to prioritize pedestrian improvements. The “Pedestrian Potential Index” measure the potential demand for pedestrian travel, based on the areas PEF (described above), proximity to activity centers (such as schools, housing [especially senior housing] parks, transit, neighborhood shops), and policy factors, such as whether improvements to the pedestrian environment on that street are part of the regional strategic plan. The “Deficiency Index” measures how critically pedestrian improvements are needed. The highest priority for pedestrian improvements are projects which rank high on both the Potential and Deficiency indices.70 The same method could be used to prioritize cycling projects.
Evaluating Nonmotorized Transportation Conditions
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William Moritz, Bicycle Facilities and Use, Washington State Department of Transportation, (Olympia; www.wsdot.wa.gov/ppsc/research/onepages/WA-RD3701.HTM), 1995.
PBQD, The Pedestrian Environment, 1000 Friends of Oregon (www.friends.org) 1993.
PBQD, Data Collection and Modeling Requirements for Assessing Transportation Impacts of Micro-Scale Design, TMIP, USDOT (www.bts.gov/tmip), 2000.
Christopher Porter, John Suhrbier and William Schwartz, “Forecasting Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel,” Transportation Research Record 1674, 1999, pp. 94-101.
Project for Public Spaces, Effects of Environmental Design on the Amount and Type of Bicycling and Walking, National Bicycling and Walking Study No. 20, FHWA, (www.bikefed.org), 1993.
PWA, How Walkable is Your Community? Partnership for a Walkable America (www.nsc.org/walk/wkcheck.htm), 2000.
W.L. Schwartz, et al, Guidebook on Methods to Estimate NonMotorized Travel: Overview of Methods. Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (www.tfhrc.org), FHWA-RD-98-165, 1999.
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University of North Carolina, A Compendium of Available Bicycle and Pedestrian Trip Generation Data in the United States, FHWA, (available through www.bikefed.org), 1994.
University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (www.hsrc.unc.edu).
Portland Office of Transportation, Portland Pedestrian Design Guide and Pedestrian Master Plan, City of Portland (www.trans.ci.portland.or.us/Sidewalks_and_Pedestrians.html), 1998.
Barry Wellar, Walking Security Index; Final Report, Geography Department, University of Ottawa (Ottawa; 613-562-5725; email@example.com), 1998.