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Volunteers help PAG collect vital data useful in regional planning

Every fall, Pima Association of Governments (PAG) asks the community to help count the number of non-motorized travelers.

The information volunteers help gather during the three-week count supports local planning efforts such as identifying locations for additional pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements.

A volunteer helps out during the 2023 bicycle and pedestrian count.

“This annual count takes an enormous amount of effort, and we couldn’t accomplish it without the help of volunteers,” said David Mitchell, a senior transportation planner at PAG.

Mitchell said 41 people volunteered this year to stand at designated street corners and other locations and count the number of users of alternative modes of transportation such as cycling and walking.

For return volunteer Kevin Bond, the annual event provided the opportunity to give back and learn something new about the community he calls home.

“After I moved downtown, my primary method of transportation was walking and the streetcar,” Bond said. “When I learned of the bike and pedestrian count, I thought it would be interesting to understand how data was gathered for a mode of transportation I used daily.”

This year, Bond counted at areas near the University of Arizona, the northwest side and in Casas Adobes, closer to where he recently moved. He said he was surprised to see relatively few cyclists, particularly during his volunteering shifts in the northwest. Even more, he was shocked to observe many cyclists not wearing helmets.

As a recreational rider, Bond said he usually sticks to the bicycle boulevards and the Chuck Huckelberry Loop.

In addition to counting the number of pedestrians and cyclists, volunteers also take note of some characteristics of travelers such as direction of travel, gender and helmet usage.

All the data collected this year hasn’t been processed yet, but previous years have revealed some interesting facts, such as:

  • 70% of cyclists wear helmets
  • One in four cyclists are female
  • 3% of cyclists ride incorrectly against automobile traffic
  • 7% of cyclists ride incorrectly on the sidewalks

The 2023 count took place during October and November, with volunteers and PAG staff stationed at 54 locations across the metro area.

“We are fortunate in this community to have so many people enthusiastic about alternative modes of transportation and willing to donate their time and effort. With their help, regional leaders can make informed, data-based decisions that make the community better for everyone,” Mitchell said.

For Bond, he intends to volunteer again next year.