National Traffic & Transport Conference Abstracts 2021
Data shows impact of COVID on active transport Australia-wide
MetroCount, Western Australia
This presentation was delivered at the 2021 Online Conference Series and until October 2022 is only available to registered delegates and Content Access Pass holders via Interchange. For information on accessing this and other presentations please review the Content Access Pass options.
With dozens of bike and pedestrian monitoring sites across the country, MetroCount have been able to measure the impact of COVID on cycling movements at an individual bike level.
Getting this detailed information as bikes ride along a shared path or designated lane is extremely helpful for spotting trends, anomalies, potential hazards and potential opportunities to support more and more people getting on their bikes.
The data collected during 2020 has been astonishing. When comparing cycling volumes pre-COVID to post-COVID, it is clear to see a remarkable increase at the vast majority of bike monitoring sites across the country. On the Outer Harbour Greenway in Adelaide, average weekly volumes increased 165%. On the South Perth Foreshore shared path they increased 140%, while on the Bay Trail in Brighton, Victoria weekly average cycling volumes increased by a whopping 169%! (Post-COVID data relates to after the 2nd March 2020 when the first community transmission of coronavirus was detected in Australia).
When looking at weekend day volumes, these figures increase even more. Interestingly enough, we can also see a clear relationship between increased volumes and decreased cycling speeds, particularly on shared paths. This is an indication that a potential review of existing infrastructure is required to ensure that both cyclists and pedestrians feel safe, and that the infrastructure provides an efficient medium for travel now and into the future.
Obviously, some sites saw a drop in cycling volumes, particularly those close to city centres, such as the Albert Street bike lane in Melbourne CBD which saw a flat lining of cyclists during the Victoria lockdowns. However, with both the City of Melbourne and VicRoads implementing pop up bike lanes in and around the CBD, the Albert Street Bike lane provides an excellent control site to measure the effectiveness of these initiatives.
In Parramatta, we can see that cycling volumes during the winter of 2020 were as high, if not higher at times, than in all previous summers going back to 2017 when monitoring first began. We can also see how popular hours for cycling changed quite substantially in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 the morning peak for cycling commences around 6am and drops back down again at 10am. In 2020 and 2021 the morning peak extends dramatically from 6am to 2pm when it then immediately increases again for the afternoon peak (which generally stays the same in terms of hours, although volumes are higher).
The fantastic thing about recording information on every single mobility device is that we can also determine its type based on the length between its axles. This allows us to differentiate kids bikes from standard bikes, identify pedestrians and to spot less common modes such as cargo bikes or e-scooters.
When comparing the percentage of different mobility modes over time, we can see changes such as the appearance of more children’s bikes during weekends in leisure areas, but also the steady increase in e-scooter volumes over the years, especially in and around central business districts.
Being able to monitor the increase of e-scooter riders and their relative speeds is an extremely helpful tool for regulation, policy making and enforcement to ensure shared paths, bike lanes and streets remain safe for all.
In Paris and Amsterdam, MetroCount data collected on bike lanes also open to light moped use identified speed related safety issues back in 2019. This brought about the total ban of light mopeds on all bike lanes in Amsterdam!
In the tourist town of Giethoorn, the Netherlands, local authorities and X Stream Traffic Consultancy used MetroCount’s RidePod BT bike counter to monitor cyclists, pedestrians and scooters to avoid crowding in busy areas and ensure social distancing was maintained at all times of the day.
Being able to automatically differentiate the varying mobility modes using active travel infrastructure 24/7 is another key way to customise infrastructure to best suit those using it most. More precise data collection like the above examples is needed on cycleways around Australia to inform the best next steps in ensuring a strong sustainable transport future post-COVID.
Active travel data is currently being used globally to bolster government funding applications, ensure social distancing compliance, inform infrastructure upgrades, monitor safety on shared paths and measure the success of incentives/projects.
This is the type of precise data needed to convince the public to get on their bikes and governments to invest in active travel infrastructure and policies.
Maurice Berger | MetroCount
Maurice is a cycling enthusiast and traffic data expert who works with governments, research bodies and activists to obtain funding, improve safety and understand traffic behaviour through data collection.
Maurice’s team and colleagues manage the installation of temporary and permanent traffic monitoring equipment and data services projects. Through training, mentoring and technical support, he helps his colleagues and clients use world-leading methodologies to work with MetroCount systems as well as seek innovative ways to improve work practices.
Maurice is on Westcycle's Transport, Safety and Advocacy Advisory Board and is Future Bayswater's Transport Connectivity action group coordinator.
Online Conference Series 2021 proudly supported by: