Why Collect Active Transport Data

Why Collect Active Transport Data

October 5, 2022

Measuring the impact of investments in active transportation assists in telling a story of success and helps identify factors that will influence pedestrian and cycle use. Data collection can help in the pursuit of funding applications and the support of sustained development of capital and operational programmes to support pedestrian and cycle growth. Monitoring is also a requirement to receive National Land Transport Programme funding. According to the NZ Transport Agency (2014)[2], “programme information needs to clearly identify baseline figures on usage and safety and proposed monitoring of change”.

For people managing a cycling network, there are over sixty different metrics to help evaluate the impact of engineering, education, encouragement and enforcement interventions. These range from mode share (as measured by the census question on the journey to work mode) to 'hands-up' counts in classrooms to measures of physical activity through the NZ Health Survey. The most direct measure is traffic counts – but the questions of where, when, how, and for what duration we should count requires careful consideration.

Resources are limited, so we want to know that we are making a difference and that we are investing in the right places at the right time. Monitoring is one way of determining what is making a difference in our effort to provide a more multi-modal, safe environment for all road users. By gauging the gender, age, and geographic distribution of people walking, scooting and biking, we can better assess if we are delivering for all our residents (and visitors).

Data analysis and reporting

Local authorities collect car and truck volume data because transport activity management plans, Road Efficiency Group (REG), Waka Kotahi, and the Department of Internal Affairs require it.  Many local authorities do not consistently maintain walk and cycle count data and if they do, it isn’t annualised to account for seasonal and weather variations. The Waka Kotahi Cycling Network Guidance section on monitoring and reporting[3]provides information on how to calibrate and scale counts.

Capturing active modes feeds into latent demand assessments[4], demand models, facility designs (how wide should that path or bridge be?) and businesses cases.

While collecting and analysing data is important, it is even more important to make it accessible to the general public and to use it when planning new or upgraded facilities. Annual report cards, real-time displays, and live web applications are now being used around New Zealand and should be emulated more widely to communicate that cycling in particular is not a fringe activity but happening everywhere.

Reporting of this data can help promote active modes, provide data towards emissions and health targets, and before and after reports for projects.

[1]This article is based in part on Monitoring cycling: you can’t manage what you don’t measure (Lieswyn et al 2018) available at https://viastrada.nz/monitoring-cycling

[2]Investing in Cycling, (NZ Transport Agency 2014) available at https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/planning/nltp-20152018/docs/201412-NLTP-investing-in-cycling.pdf

[3]Cycling Network Guidance (Waka Kotahi n.d.) available at: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/walking-cycling-and-public-transport/cycling/cycling-standards-and-guidance/cycling-network-guidance/cycle-network-and-route-planning-guide/process/monitoring-and-reporting/

[4]Research Report 676 Latent demand for walking and cycling (WSP 2021) https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/research/reports/676/

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