Monday, October 1, 2012

Making it Count for CDOT

Saturday my son and I spent two lovely hours together on the Monroe Street Bridge counting east- and westgoing bikes for the quarterly CDOT bike count. CDOT counts bikes at various intersections each season in an effort to study where riders are right now, where ridership might be grown with better infrastructure, where cyclists are crowded, and where sparse. You know what huge fans of honestly good all-ages bike infrastructure we are. It was high time for our family to get counting to help keep those good lanes coming. 

So my medium boy and I ran out of the house a little behind, after our computer printer refused to print out our charts. We grabbed extra paper, a few pencils and some snacks and hurried through the almost deserted Saturday streets through the outer loop to our assigned spot. We took a few minutes to find the best place to enjoy watching the shimmery sun on the river and see bikes coming from both directions. Then we cobbled together a chart from my memory of counting Tuesday morning. 

Counts happen in fifteen minute increments. We were counting both east- and westgoing riders. Men and women riders are noted separately. (My guy was wondering when they might start counting kids? Or old ladies? Hmmm..) Saturdays on Monroe Bridge are pretty quiet right now. Other counters were out on more buzzy bike thoroughfares.

Just when it started getting a little ho hum we noticed the bridges north of us were swarmed with men in orange vests. City kids love orange vests.  We traded off keeping our eye on the bikes and guessing about the swarm. Of course. The bridges were all opening to let the boats through from the lake. This was perfect, watched from our little perch from which we could see each bridge north. Open, close. Open, close. It was the most exciting when they moved us off our bridge and opened it right above us. He liked that we didn’t have to worry about missing any bikes while we watched.

After the bridges closed we played word games, got caught up together on everything happening everywhere and counted the bikes. It occurred to us that other kids might like counting bikes for CDOT as well. 

Counting bikes on a sunny Saturday morning might sound a little dull maybe but we were busy working with our clock to keep in the right quarter hour on the chart and remembering which compass direction the riders were coming from. My son loved being in charge of the pencil, clock and direction remembering. We also got a little silly noticing all of the different kinds of riders.

We both considered, perhaps, that this would be a fun non-ride weekend event for other Kidicalmassers and families that want to help the city grow into a better place for us all to get around. Family Math activity junkies obviously note oodles of math mania built right into our morning... A little team of kids and parents could take a busier place and trade off counting and playing to pass a very quick two hours. The next quarterly count will be in January. Maybe it'd be even better in winter with some snowballs and a big thermos of hot chocolate.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. If it sounds good to you check out the CDOT bike program page here and contact the project head to join the team working the quarterly counts.  Finishing up we traded tales with the other counters when we all met afterwards at the Picasso to turn in our data. The cyclist who counted alone on the hugely crowded lakefront trail was especially funny. Hint. Hint.

See you out there in January?