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Mobility and Transport

5.3 Data collection, evaluation, documentation and communication

Overview

Collating, evaluating, documenting and communicating information on cycling, and views on cycling, support evidence-based policy making and the engagement and communication with stakeholders.

Considerations for applicability

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Level of cycling

Collating, evaluating, documenting and communicating information is important for cities with any level of cycling. The extent of the actions needed might vary depending on the current level of cycling and any future plans.

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Urban layout/topography

The measure is administrative, so the urban layout and topography of the city is irrelevant to its applicability.

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Population

The demographic structure of the city, and whether it is a tourist destination or has a large student population, might influence the data that could usefully be collected and documented. This, however, is not relevant to the measure’s applicability.

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Finance Resources

Finance will be needed to collate the necessary information. In order to monitor and evaluate a measure, financial resources will need to be set aside. Similarly, documenting and communicating information will need to be supported financially.

The financial resources needed will vary depending on the type and scale of the action. However, these are likely to be relatively small compared to the implementation of measures.

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Time & Human Resources

Time and human resources will be needed to collate the necessary information, to evaluate it and to document and communicate it in a way that is relevant to the identified target audience. Compared to other measures, the time and human resources required is likely to be small, but it is important that sufficient resources are put aside for these activities. The city should also make use of data collected by other organisations, e.g. police, local employers, local universities, cycling clubs and cycling advocacy groups.

Measure impact highlight

Informed decision making and investment

Collating, evaluating, documenting and communicating data helps the public authority make better decisions and enables it to better target investment in a way that engages citizens, politicians and other stakeholders. It is also easier to make the arguments for a particular decision, if it is based on evidence supported by data.

Note: An overview of the direct and indirect impacts resulting from correctly implemented cycling measures is available in http://ec.europa.eu/transport/node/6167{Challenges that cities face and how cycling can address them as Link}.

In-depth measure analysis, case studies and further guidance

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Key features

Understanding the existing state of play with respect to cycling in a city, including what cyclists (and potential cyclists) think, as well as the impact of measures, is important to both inform the development of policy and also to communicate progress to policy-makers and the public. This is an ongoing process in which data are collated and the performance of existing measures is evaluated, which in turn contributes to informing the set of data that is documented and communicated more widely. Together, this will help to ensure that the development of a cycling strategy, its measures and infrastructure, are based on evidence and include an understanding of the existing situation and future needs. The documentation and communication of information taken from the experience of the city will also help to win support for the measures that are being implemented.

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Credit: City of Copenhagen, Usula Bach

Function and objectives

Data are fundamentally important in the development, implementation and evaluation of cycling strategies and measures. Monitoring and evaluating the performance of a specific measure are important to understanding whether or not it met its objectives, and thus to learn lessons for the implementation of similar measures in the future. Documenting and communicating higher level, more general information in a way that is understandable and relevant to the target audience is important to engage the public and other stakeholders, to help monitor progress overall and to help identify the need for further measures. Documenting and communicating information intensifies its effect, compared to simply keeping the information within the city authority. Communication is particularly credible if it is based on well-documented information that is communicated using infographics and language that makes it easy to understand for a non-professional audience. While the documentation and communication of information cannot replace physical measures, they play a very important role in identifying which interventions are most urgent and in documenting the effect of investments, thereby helping cycling to be accepted politically and by the public more generally. The fact that many people now have a smartphone has the potential to transform the way in which data are collected, e.g. if apps on the smartphone are used for this purpose.

The way in which data is collated, evaluated, documented and communicated depends on the data to be collated and what they are to be used for. At the basic level, traffic counts (or the bicycle counters used by Copenhagen and La Rochelle) can be used to identify the existing extent of cycling in a city. Surveys can be used to identify the extent and state of existing cycling infrastructure and where accidents take place/identification of safety concerns, as is being done in Tallinn. Surveys can also be used to identify the views of cyclists, such as those undertaken by Copenhagen to inform its biennial Bicycle Account. More complex data gathering techniques can be used to identify the views of non-cyclists, as in the ‘profiling study’ undertaken in Brussels. Specific measures, e.g. a new cycle route or action at a junction to improve safety, should be monitored to identify the extent to which they have met their objectives, e.g. increasing cycling or reducing accidents. In order to support such monitoring and evaluation, data needs to have been collected before the measure was implemented and then again at appropriate intervals after the measure has been implemented, to identify whether it has had the desired impact. The documentation and communication of the data can be undertaken in some form of Bicycle Account, of which Copenhagen’s is the most established.

Complementary measures

The collation, evaluation, documentation and communication of data are particularly linked to ‘Bicycle development strategies’ (see http://ec.europa.eu/transport/node/6197{Preparing city cycling strategies and plans as Link}). Such strategies should be based on an understanding of the state of play with respect to cycling in the city, and of the views and needs of (potential) cyclists. Indeed, the documentation and communication of information can be used to monitor the implementation of a ‘Bicycle development strategy’, and to identify measures that might need to be included in future strategies, or any sub-strategies.

Data collection and evaluation are also important for specific measures, depending on the detail of those measures. Data on infrastructure are particularly important for the development and production of accurate ‘ http://ec.europa.eu/transport/node/6213{Cycle Maps as Link}’ and ‘route planners’.

In order to ensure that investment is well targeted, it is particularly important to monitor and evaluate the impact of more expensive investments, particularly cycling infrastructure. This will help the city authority to have confidence that it is developing the right type of infrastructure, and for it to make any amendments that might be necessary to enhance the performance of the new infrastructure. Such an approach will also enable the city authority to learn lessons from past experience, and so better enable the authority to justify similar investments in the future.

Performance

The collation, evaluation, documentation and communication of information has no direct impacts. It is an important complementary measure that supports policy-making and engagement, both within a city’s administration and with elected representatives, the public and other stakeholders. If done well, it can support and indeed contribute to the development of cycling in a city, and therefore to delivering all of the potential benefits of cycling. By taking a proactive approach to data collection, evaluation, documentation and communication, the city authority will help to engage with relevant stakeholders and the public. This could help to deliver a better sense of ‘community’ within the city.

Parameters of success or failure

It will not be appropriate to monitor and evaluate every measure in the same way. Monitoring and evaluation can be quantitative, e.g. changes in the level of cycling on a specific route, and qualitative, e.g. people’s perception of a measure. While monitoring and evaluation need to be proportionate, they are an important means of understanding the impact of a measure and of learning lessons for the implementation of future similar measures.

For example, monitoring the impact of cycling on a particular route, e.g. as a result of the introduction of a segregated cycle route, would require information on the level of cycling before the implementation of the measure, and data on the level of cycling after its introduction. The latter would need to be gathered at a long enough interval after the cycle lane’s implementation to allow time for peoples’ behaviour to change. To complement the monitoring on the route, the use of bicycles on any relevant parallel routes might also be noted beforehand and afterwards to identify the extent to which the number of people cycling has increased, rather than simply having been diverted from another route.

The documentation and communication, e.g. in some form of a Bicycle Account, is important in engaging decision-makers, the public and other stakeholders. If a city has not previously undertaken such an exercise, it could start by collecting and documenting the data that are available. The communication aspect requires that the data are interpreted for the intended audience and that the important messages that readers should take from the publication are highlighted. Data can be taken from many different, quantitative and qualitative sources, not just data collected by the city administration, including surveys undertaken by local cycling groups and associations, university studies and information collated by companies, e.g. on how their employees’ travel to work. These stakeholders can even be encouraged to collect information that the city can use, while local companies can be encouraged to develop smartphone apps to support data collection. Information collected by other authorities in the city, such as the police for accident data and traffic management authorities, can also be useful. Data can also be taken from sources that are not directly linked to the city, e.g. in order to demonstrate the potential of cycling, although care needs to be taken in drawing conclusions for the city from such data.

The aim of the first generation of Accounts could be seen to be to inform and to build up the demand for data. Subsequent accounts can be more detailed, and based on more recent data that has been collated within the city. As more data becomes available, an Account will develop to increasingly be based on information that is of direct relevance to the city.

The production of a regular and frequent Bicycle Account could effectively become the means of monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the overall cycling strategy. If possible, (at least some of) the indicators that are presented in the Account should be more formally integrated into the work and projects of the administration over time. Ideally, such integration should take place at the political level, e.g. included in cycling, or wider transport, strategy. Integration at the administrative level is also beneficial to inform decisions on a day-to-day basis. Even without political integration, an Account would provide a systematic and professional approach to the monitoring of the impacts of measures.

Documenting and communicating information about cycling will increase expectations. By making the need for future measures, and thus future investment, transparent, the public, media and other stakeholders will begin to expect that this action will be taken, which opens the administration up to criticism if the investment does not materialise. This should not be seen as a reason not to document and communicate the information; it is simply something to be aware of.

Key lessons for transferability

  • Ensure that there are sufficient resources for monitoring and evaluation: Appropriate financial and human resources need to be allocated as part of the budget of the measure (or as part of the overall cycling strategy) to monitor and evaluate the impacts of specific measures, and of the city’s overall cycling strategy.
  • Make the documentation and communication of the information accessible and easy to understand: The documentation and communication of data, e.g. in a Bicycle Account, needs to be accessible and easy to understand. It is important to include staff with a background in communications in the process. It should be a collaboration between the technical and the communications people within the city to ensure that the wording and the infographics used are the most appropriate way of communicating the information to a broad target audience.
  • Have a systematic and holistic approach to data and consider both qualitative and quantitative data: When monitoring and evaluating a specific measure, the data collection needs to be set up so that the data collated before the measure’s implementation are directly comparable with the data collected after its implementation. Measure-specific monitoring can also be undertaken as part of the regular documenting and communicating of data. For the regular documenting and communicating of data, there should be common indicators that enable comparisons with previous years. It should be set up to enable the impact of measures to be monitored. Hence, data collection needs to be systematic and repeatable.
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[collapsed title=Case Studies]

[collapsed title=Data collection (Tallinn, Estonia)]

  • Location: Baltics/Eastern/Central
  • Population: Large urban area (572,000)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Starter (1%)

In order to provide a good basis for the assessment of the implementation of its cycling strategy, Tallinn is in the process of undertaking a data collection exercise to identify the state of its cycling infrastructure. This will include an assessment of the quality of the existing cycling infrastructure, on the basis of which quality standards will be developed for different segments of the cycle path network; this will include the status of the cycling infrastructure, its location and safety.

The city aims to have good quality, accurate data to help to identify any bottlenecks and shortcomings of the existing network. A good understanding of the location and quality of the existing cycling infrastructure will enable this information to be mapped with the location of planned investments to help determine the city’s construction priorities.

The city is also – along with the national road administration – going to collect and analyse data relating to cycling accidents. This will help them to identify the location and potential causes of cycling accidents, and thus to identify measures to address any issues that are identified.

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[collapsed title=Bicycle counters (Copenhagen, Denmark; La Rochelle, France)]

  • Location: North/North West
  • Population: Large urban area (602,481); Medium urban area (168,000)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Champion (28%); Climber (10%)

There are different types of bicycle counters. Cities can have automatic bicycle counters hidden in the track surface to count the number of bicycles that use a particular cycle track. Occasional manual counts are also used in many cities to identify the level of cycle use; these have the advantage that those counting are able to distinguish between different types of bicycle, particularly cargo bikes. Bicycle counters can also be prominent visual displays that are located in a city, e.g. on a main cycling route. As with hidden and occasional counters, each visible counter registers each cyclist that passes by. In addition, visible bicycle counters display this information on a monitor for all passers-by, particularly cyclists, to see. Copenhagen currently has two such counters, while La Rochelle is about to introduce two visible ones in the city.

Whereas the hidden and occasional bicycle counters enable a city to monitor the number of cyclists using a particular street, visible bicycle counters have an additional advantage. Visible, prominent bicycle counters make the number of cyclists that have passed by a particular point visible to citizens. This is the aim of such bicycle counters: to increase the visibility of cyclists in the city. As with all bicycle counters, the data collated by the visible counters is also useful for the city’s planners.

Evidence suggests that people like to cycle past visible bicycle counters. They also help to demonstrate that there is a political commitment to cycling in the city. The visible bicycle counters literally demonstrate to cyclists that they count.

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[collapsed title=Bicycle Account (Copenhagen, Denmark)]

  • Location: North/North West
  • Population: Large urban area (602,481)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Champion (28%)

Copenhagen’s first Bicycle Account was for 1994. It was produced as part of the material provided to participants of the 1995 Car Free Cities conference in Copenhagen. The next edition was for 1996 and it has been produced for every other year since. Each Account sets out the data and progress towards agreed political targets, on the basis of which it identifies future needs and the need for further specific measures. Each Account also plays a role in monitoring past performance and so helps to identify which measures worked and which did not; this also helps to identify the likely impacts of future measures.

The Accounts have proved to be a useful means of sharing key insights on the potential and effects of increased cycling with a broader audience including citizens, decision makers, local stakeholders and the press. The systematic documentation of key performance indicators and the communication of the results of concrete projects have also helped to consolidate the strategic focus on cycling within the city administration itself.

The detail of the Bicycle Accounts has been developed over the various editions. The general approach is to present a set of fixed key indicators, some of which are linked to quantitative political goals, along with more in-depth topical data. A central indicator that has been documented since the beginning is the satisfaction of citizens and cyclists with cycling conditions in the city, which is based on a biennial survey. Other indicators relate to modal share, bike traffic volume, serious accidents and risk, average travel speed and the length of cycling infrastructure. The information is both qualitative and quantitative. Different editions of the Bicycle Account document different elements of the indirect benefits of cycling measures, including the impact on health, air quality, noise and other socio-economic factors, to ensure that cycling is linked to the other issues of relevance to the city.

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[collapsed title=Profiling study (Brussels, Belgium)]

  • Location: North / North West
  • Population: Larger urban area (1.2 million)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Starter (4%)

In order to develop cycling in the Brussels Metropolitan Region beyond the existing, relatively small community of cyclists in the city, its transport department, Brussels Mobility, sought to identify the reasons why people did not cycle. In order to do this, it commissioned Vrije Universiteit to undertake a ‘profiling study’ of non-cyclists in the city.

The aim of the profiling study was to engage with non-cyclists from all of the city’s socio-economic groups. An online survey was developed and distributed to cyclists and non-cyclists to be able to compare the responses of non-cyclists to those who cycled. A sufficient number of people responded to the survey to enable an analysis of the reasons why those from higher socio-economic groups did not cycle. . Representatives of these groups were engaged in dedicated focus groups, which covered the same issues as were included in the online survey.

The study found that, amongst the higher socio-economic groups, people were more likely to cycle if they had friends, family and colleagues who already cycled. For these socio-economic groups, environmental factors were not important as both cyclists and non-cyclists had a similar perception of the challenges associated with cycling in the city. Amongst lower socio-economic groups (reached via focus groups), the environmental factors were the main barriers. There was a lack of awareness of the potential and cost of the shared bike scheme, for example. This information can be used to inform the measures that might need to be taken to encourage different groups of non-cyclists to take up cycling.

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[collapsed title=Key guidance, further reading and references]

Sustrans (2014) Design Manual Chapter 16 “Monitoring and evaluation of walking and cycling”

sustrans_monitoring_and_evaluation
English
(1.27 MB - PDF)
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Technopolis (2016) “Evaluating the economic and social impacts of cycling infrastructure: considerations for an evaluation framework”, a report for the Department of Transport (UK)

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English
(1.52 MB - PDF)
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Urban Systems (2013), “Bicycle Account Guidelines”, a report for The League of American Cyclists

bicycle_account_guidelines
English
(1.69 MB - PDF)
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Deffner, J. et al (2012) “Handbook on cycling inclusive planning and promotion. Capacity development material for the multiplier training within the mobile2020 project”, Sections 5 ‘Monitoring and evaluation of important traffic indicators’ and 8.4 ‘Other evaluation methods’ of Part I (pages 45 to 47; 59 to 60)

m2020_handbook_en.pdf
English
(32.57 MB - PDF)
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The Transport, Guidance Tool Item 5.1 - 'Evaluating the Investment: Monitoring and Evaluation', available at: https://transportknowledgehub.org.uk/guidance-tool/monitoring-and-evaluation/

Copenhagen’s Bicycle Accounts, available at: https://international.kk.dk/artikel/city-cyclists

SUSTRANS ‘Bike Life’ reports for some UK cities, available at https://www.sustrans.org.uk/bikelife

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