You can’t manage what you don’t measure is an old management adage. In many ways the way we have managed our streets has proved this point. Every time a new building goes up, or a transportation project is proposed the number of cars are counted and projections for the number of cars in the future provided. Yet, cities traditionally have done a pretty poor job of keeping track of how many people get around on foot or by bike. What we get then are streets that are really only designed for people in cars.
An example of one City that is filling this void is Melbourne, which has developed a sophisticated 24-hour pedestrian counting system. The City has set up 28 sensors installed under an awning or on a street pole in the city centre. The sensors, pictured below, counts all pedestrian movements, in two directions, passing through the counting zone.
Not only are the pedestrians counted, but the data is shared in real time on a snazzy looking site. From the website, you can drill down and see exactly how many people walk down a given street in Melbourne at a given time of day. This shot was taken today at 5pm Eastern or just after 8am in Melbourne.
Accurate counts of pedestrians and cyclists is very important in order to influence policy, inform transportation planning, and support investments in infrastructure that support physical activity, such as walkways and bicycle facilities. I hope to see systems like the one in Melbourne in cities across Canada soon!