Look out the window or head out for a walk and it’s plain to see: there’s a bit of a bike-splosion on city streets during the lockdown! It’s a combo of people looking for fresh air and local exercise – and the sudden diminishing of car traffic.
Here’s the thing: surveys tell us that up to 60% of Aucklanders would like to bike, if it felt safer. Amongst everything else, the Level 4 lockdown has given us an unintentional demonstration of what that looks and feels like. Some cycleway counters are already up 100% on this time last year – and we hear even the ones that are lower are only down by a little bit, as recreational riding takes over from commuting.
But there’s a huge gap in the data: local trips. The automatic bike counters are only on a few dozen major routes – and not every neighbourhood has cycleways or even shared paths. So, a huge number of bike rides go uncounted by Auckland Transport. That’s especially true for local trips: around the block, to the shops, to the park, and to school (when it’s in session).
Overnight, we’re seeing how quickly Aucklanders embrace healthy streets for local journeys! It’s clear that low-traffic neighbourhoods encourage more biking… and walking, scooting, enjoying, exploring, and meeting your neighbours.
The Big Backyard Bike Count will make these journeys count. It’s an easy, fun, family-friendly activity that creates a citywide snapshot, so we can all see what’s possible. #BackyardBikeCount
How to join the Big Backyard Bike Count
Grab 15 minutes, count all the ways people are moving on your street, and send us the results. That’s it! You can do it any day or time that suits you, during the Level 4 lockdown period. You can do it as many times as you like. All you need is paper, pen, and a quarter of an hour. #BackyardBikeCount
Copy or print out our handy-dandy survey form: click the image below for a large version, or download this PDF: Backyard Bike Count Survey PDF v2
- If you’re doing this as a group, you can print out multiple copies and put each person in charge of a different category.
- No printer? Copy the categories onto your own piece of paper.
- We’ve also seen people using chalk on their driveway to keep count, which is extra fun!
2. Find a comfy counting spot – e.g. at the top of your driveway.
- Make sure you can sit a safe 2 metres from people going past.
- Find some shade if you need it.
3. Write the day, time, and location at the top of your form.
- For privacy, you don’t have to give your full street address – just the street name + cross street, and/or rough location is fine.
4. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and GO!
- Make a mark (a dot, line, or tick) for each kind of journey you see.
5. You’re done – now send us a pic!
- Add up your tally marks and write the total in each box.
- Then take a photo of the form and email it to us.
Feeling fancy? You can add up all the numbers, and then work out the “mode share” by using percentages. E.g. if you saw 100 movements altogether, and 40 of them were people on bikes, that’s a 40% bike mode share.
Send and share the results. Email us a photo of your tally sheet, and feel free to share your results with friends and neighbours and your local community pages, too. They might be surprised! Use the hashtag #BackyardBikeCount to share on social media.
Q. When shall I do the count?
A. Any fifteen-minute period on any day or time during lockdown that suits you. Daylight is best, so you can see what’s happening.
Q. Where is best to do the count?
A. Close to home is good, but it’s also useful to compare different locations in your neighbourhood. Anywhere you can find a good safe place to set yourself up for 15 minutes is fine.
Q. Can I do more than one count?
A. Of course!! Some days and times and locations are busier than others, and it’s going to be really interesting to compare.
Q. How do I count a mixed group, like a family using all kinds of transport?
A. Quickly! Put a dot in each area that applies, e.g. one person walking + one in a pushchair + one on a tiny bike.
Q. What if I accidentally miss someone?
A. That’s okay. This is an informal census.
Q. What if someone goes past me twice?
A. Count them each time they pass you – that’s how regular traffic counters work.
Q. Can I count for more than 15 minutes?
A. We reckon 15 minutes is about right for your concentration span, and it lets us compare the results across communities. But if you want to do a couple of separate counts in a row, go for it! Just use a fresh form for each 15 minute survey.
Q. Uh oh, I didn’t see any bikes. What did I do wrong??
A. It’s not you. It might be the time of day. Or, it might just be that not many people in your neighbourhood have bikes, or don’t feel comfortable biking on the roads, even with very little traffic. Or, they might be biking along a nearby main street, or in a park. You could try doing your survey in another location, or comparing notes with friends on other streets. (And we still bet you saw more people walking than in cars!)
Q. What kinds of things do I put in the “what else do you see and hear” box?
A. Exactly that! We’re curious about what catches your attention, and what’s different from usual. Can you hear birds, or conversations that would normally be blurred out by traffic noise? Are you seeing kinds of people you don’t normally see? Are kids biking on the footpath or on the road, by themselves or with others? How does the air smell today?
Q. How will Bike Auckland use the results?
A. We’ll collate the numbers and written observations, and will share the results with you. We look forward to seeing your tally sheets on social media. And we also plan to show the results on a map. Stay tuned!
Q. I don’t live in Auckland – can I still count bikes?
A. Absolutely! Please feel free to use our tally form, or make your own. Gather your neighbours and find your local safe streets advocates to organise a local count, and make a plan for how to collate the results. The information you capture will be very useful to your community, schools, local government, and more in years to come.
Other ways you can “count” bikes and record your experiences
We’re interested in all kinds of data that helps capture what this unusual time looks and feels like. So feel free to send us your impressions in any way that suits you.
- Sensory survey While you’re counting, take time to notice what can you see, feel, hear, and smell. What’s different from usual? We’ve put an area on the survey form for you to write these down.
- Spot the difference Draw your street, both before lockdown (from memory!) and during lockdown.
- Map your hood Draw a map of your neighbourhood and all the places you can bike to. How long does it take to get there on a bike, or by walking?
- Bike diaries Go for a ride around the neighbourhood and have think about everything you’re seeing and feeling. What’s different from usual? Write it down when you get home.
- Photo stories Take photos or video clips of your street and your local riding experiences right now. We always welcome guest posts describing how things are for you – what better time to share your story!