Cyclists in London need not be alarmed if someone is staring at them as they ride along city streets or pathways. It’s all in the name of understanding who is riding their bikes in the city and how to improve the cycling experience.
It’s part of this year’s national Pedal Poll. More than 50 volunteers are taking turns tracking who is cycling, where and how often.
The poll, which is organized by Vélo Canada Bikes, has helped coordinate bike counts in 14 pilot sites from Toronto to Montreal to Yellowknife. While London did not fall under the organization’s list of targeted cities, dozens of volunteers stepped up to conduct their own count.
Ben Cowie, owner of the London Bicycle Café, helped organize the local tracking.
“Broadly, we want to understand where people are cycling and we want to know who is cycling across the country,” Cowie said.
Volunteers are expected to complete 2-hour shifts at their respective stations and record each cyclist passing by using an app. The poll criteria includes perceived gender, age and ethnic background.
During his shift, Cowie counted 17 men and nine women, all of whom were white, cycling along Dundas Place Tuesday. He said what he recorded is representative of who is frequently riding through the city’s downtown core.
The joint effort to attain this data in London came at the urging of riding advocates and London Cycling Link.
In order to track weekday cycling, tracking was conducted for the first time on Tuesday to capture commuter riding. It will be carried out again on Saturday to collect mainly recreational cyclists.
“We are looking forward to seeing the cross Canada results from this week’s counts and where the benchmark is set,” said Brent Charlton, with the London Cycle Link. “London’s cycling community continues to grow. It’s important to leverage this data to build a stronger and safer active transportation network in our community.”
London’s Bicycle Mayor Shelley Carr said the data thus far has pointed to gaps in both gender and ethnic diversity in cycling.
“We’re making a point that we design our infrastructure for certain people and that’s what our counts are coming forward with,” Carr said.
Approximately 70 per cent male and 30 per cent female riders are cycling on the roads from the counts collected on Tuesday, Carr said. While data collected along the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) and multi-use pathways show 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female.
Carr said this data, while early on, is proving that visible minorities within the city are not being reflected in London’s active transportation demographic. With this information available, the hope is to address these gaps and understand what needs to change in order to better reflect the city’s population, Carr said.
“When we have data that shows this is how much we have, this is what we need to improve on, then it gives us that incentive to move forward and to make those improvements.”