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I was doing a search for work sat week when I cam across the very helpful site http://virginiaroads.org. This dashboard had all kids of interactive data about road use and maintenance. It even had a Bicycling Maps page!

This had links to the various statewide bike trails in the state of Virginia. Very nice very meticulous, but I don’t know the last time I biked across the Commonwealth. I think it was the 5th of Never. A statewide biking map of Virginia serves the daily needs of bikers a little better than a map of the ocean floor does daily traffic commuters.

For a more local scale, I found that each district had published “Annual Average Daily Traffic” maps. The was readily exciting, until I saw that they meant traffic in the traditional sense, not bicycling traffic. I’ve already proclaimed my affinity for the term “traffic” as meaning automotive traffic on public road between private parking spaces. I thought VDOT was using the wider definition of traffic as “movement of vehicles of any type”. As in “bike traffic” or “foot traffic”. God knows I’ve been reminded of these terms of art when using “traffic” in my restricted way. Only the driving public or tV anchors think “traffic” means “congestion”. There’s a perfectly good term for that, and that word is “congestion”. Congestion is one of the core competencies of traffic, so I can see how the two might get confused.

The AADT maps VDOT provided on their Bicycling Maps page were all about traffic, and only inferentially about biking. The thought is that lots of traffic makes for an unsafe place for bikes. They really should have taken the reciprocal of their numbers if they wanted to provide maps for bikers. AADT tells us nothing about the congestion on that road, the with of the road, or, more importantly, the provision of any bike facilities with or near that road. And of, course they don’t tell us anything about the oat important gator for bikers: the number of bikers on that road. The best determinant of safety for bikers is “how many bikers are already there”. The people with the power and hammers to kill bikers are ore likely to expect and watch for bikers where there are a lot of bikers. Where there is only one biker, they will be unexpected and practically invisible to many in traffic.

There is a real disparity in the amount of data we collect and steward between traffic and transit. There are some datasets for traffic that stretch back to 1899, and we’ve been conducting traffic counts since 1904. Every road is counted and modeled for its throughout in traffic. This makes it easy for engineers to determine if a road is congested and in need of expansion, without having to actually visit the pace, ever.

Bike facilities get no such systematic data input. We have a general sense that bike lanes, bike boulevards or protected lanes will increase bike traffic, but we have not national database of measured effects of different facilities. There is no objective “warrant” for different facilities. “If you build it, they will come” is the best homily we can offer. Maybe so. In the aggregate, biking and walking began to rise in the US exactly when the federal government decided to give it s a sliver of the transportation budget. But I still can’t tell you with 100% confidence theta this bike lane in this place will attract this many bikers.

Source: City of <a href=”http://www.redmond.gov/”Redmond, WA

Traffic engineers can’t even do that with road widenings, but they have much better data to work with.