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Bike count shows prevalence of cyclists in Tempe

A recent survey by the Tempe Bicycle Action Group found there are more than 9,000 people choosing bikes as a form of transportation to get around Tempe.

Conducted between March 29 and March 31, the survey was the first citywide comprehensive bike count done in Tempe.

TBAG is a local nonprofit organization with about 400 members. Its mission is to promote bike riding as a safe and easy form of transportation in Tempe.

The bikes were counted using visual observation done by more than 75 volunteers, 30 of whom were ASU students.

The volunteers used tracking sheets to record how many cyclists they saw during peak hours of the day: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Manager of the bike count survey Sam Bollinger, who graduated from ASU in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in fine art photography, said the survey was done to find ways to enhance the city for pedestrians and cyclists.

“Bike counts such as this are effective tools used for advocating for bicycle infrastructure and improving what already exists,” she said. “It helps the city prioritize projects and improvements needed.”

These improvements include things such as new bike lanes, freeway bridges, bike paths and improved signage.

Bollinger said bike lanes around the Tempe campus are necessary because often bikers will ride in the wrong direction or ride where they are not supposed to, putting themselves in danger.

“Riding in the wrong direction is asking to be hit,” she said.

The volunteers tracked cyclists at 43 locations throughout Tempe and took notice of things such as age, gender, helmet usage and whether cyclists rode on the street or sidewalk.

Since the count took place over a three-day period, the numbers are not 100 percent accurate, as it is likely that the same people were cycling each day.

Bollinger said TBAG was looking to find a more general volume of cyclists and not a specific number.

Of the 43 locations sampled, the three busiest ones were closest to ASU.

The intersection of University Drive and College Avenue saw the most traffic, followed by Apache Boulevard and Paseo Del Saber, and Apache Boulevard and Rural Road.

“The number of cyclists at each of the three busiest intersections exceeded 150 cyclists per hour,” said Cliff Anderson, a member of TBAG who graduated from ASU in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in statistics.

He added that of the cyclists recorded, only about 20 percent of them were wearing helmets.

To combat this problem, TBAG is going to consider prioritizing raising awareness about the need to wear a helmet.

“Because of the low helmet usage observed, there is potential for considerable improvement,” he said.

He said the bike count will be repeated twice a year, giving TBAG the opportunity to determine whether their efforts in raising helmet awareness are effective. He’s not yet sure when the next bike count will be held.

Bollinger said there is obviously danger involved for cyclists not wearing a helmet because the traffic in Tempe is high, raising the likelihood of a cyclist getting hit by a vehicle.

Bollinger said TBAG plans to raise awareness of the need for helmets by having events for children, where the organization gives out free helmets that children are invited to decorate with stickers.

However, the group has to take a different approach when it comes to getting adults to wear helmets.

“As the low helmet use numbers around ASU show, it may take more than cute helmet decorations to get the big kids to wear helmets,” she said.

To encourage adults to wear helmets, TBAG plans to hold a best decorated helmet contest during the next bike count. Riders who participate will have the chance to be entered into a drawing to win prizes.

“We hope this reward system will help get more adult cyclists to wear helmets,” Bollinger said.

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