NORFOLK – Runners and cyclists on the Elizabeth River Trail might not know it, but they’re being counted.
Recording devices secured between two wooden boards are tracking the number of walkers, runners and bikers along the trail. Last week, the city moved its three pedestrian and bicycle counters to spots along the Elizabeth River Trail: at the Weyanoke Footbridge, the intersection of Bluestone Avenue and 43rd Street, and Hampton Boulevard at the railroad bridge.
The numbers help the city plan as it works to add bike lanes and improve bike and pedestrian trails in the area. The counters are an important part of data collection, according to Paul Forehand, project manager for the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space.
“It’s a way way of quantifying – it’s one thing to say a lot of people use that trail, but if I could say ‘X’ number of people use that trail, that’s a better argument,” Forehand said.
The counts could also indicate problems with certain intersections if the numbers are extremely low, he said.
“You start looking at why people are not using a corridor or path,” Forehand said. “You can’t do analyzation without data.”
The counters were previously at the Hague footbridge and at Granby Street by the I-64 underpass.
The $3,000 counters can distinguish between people and cyclists, and automatically upload the data every night. They were funded by a grant awarded to Eastern Virginia Medical School.
The counters allow the city to create a chart of bike and pedestrian traffic every 15 minutes for the whole year. The city is working to make that live data publicly available online.
“What we’d like to do is have a lot more counters in a lot more areas,” Forehand said. “But we’ll pick them up over the years as we progress.”
Click to enlarge data provided by the city: