It’s countdown to count time…

There's only one way to know how many people are using our trails, bike lanes, sharrows and sidewalks: get up early and count 'em.

Every year, the city and state spend thousands of dollars on automated equipment designed to count motor vehicles on the road in order to optimize traffic flow and determine where improvements are needed. Woefully, bicyclists and pedestrians are excluded from these counts.

This is where you come in. The Seattle Department of Transportation and Cascade Bicycle Club rely on volunteers to collect valuable data about bicycling and walking, both within Seattle's limits and throughout the state. Helping with the counts is an easy way to support advocacy for new and improved bicycle facilities - and two opportunities are right around the corner.

First up, Seattle's bicycle counts: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 6:30 - 9 a.m.

Seattle's Department of Transportation is seeking the help of volunteers to count bicyclists and pedestrians at 61 locations throughout the city on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The shift is an early one - 6:30-9 a.m. - but with so many locations, there's bound to be one on your way to the office (there are several on the way to mine!).

In previous years, SDOT has alternated between citywide and downtown bicycle counts, compiling data for each every other year. Beginning in 2010, the downtown counts will be conducted every year, with citywide counts every other year. Which means they'll need more volunteer help this year than ever before.

The results will be used to gauge progress toward tripling the number of bicycle trips by 2017 (as called for in the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan) and to generate support for improved infrastructure for bicyclists.

If you can help, contact Virginia Coffman at Virginia.Coffman@seattle.gov by Friday, Sept. 10 with your top two count location preferences, mailing address and telephone number.

Next up, the 2010 Washington State Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project: Oct. 5, 6 & 7, 7-9 a.m. & 4-6 p.m.

Live elsewhere in the state? No problem! Cascade will also be conducting statewide bicycle and pedestrian counts on October 5 - 7. We had more than 250 volunteers last year, and we’re hoping for even more this year. Check the list below for your town or city and stay tuned for more information. We'll put out a formal call for volunteers within a couple of weeks.

2010 Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project Count Cities
Bellevue Bellingham Bothell
Bremerton Burien Ellensburg
Everett Ferndale Issaquah
Kelso Kent Kirkland
Longview Lynden Oak Harbor
Olympia Redmond Richland
Spokane Tacoma Tukwila
Vancouver Walla Walla Wenatchee
Yakima Mercer Island Shoreline
Edmonds Lynnwood Mountlake Terrace

For decades, vehicle traffic data have informed highway expansion projects and freeway design. Comparable data for bicycle and pedestrian use is invaluable in ensuring that walkers and bikers get equal treatment as Washington state's cities and towns prioritize improvement projects. So please, volunteer! (I did.)