When Determining Frequency for Reporting Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Data, Agencies Should First Identify The Objectives Associated with each Necessary Data Report.
State Study Evaluated Qualitative Benefits and Costs for Six Pedestrian and Bike Counter Technologies.
Made Public Date

State-of-the-Art Approaches to Bicycle and Pedestrian Counters


North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is seeking to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian counting technologies to further evaluate traffic facility usage over time. This study assessed the feasibility of multiple bicycle and pedestrian counting technologies for the growth of the North Carolina Non-Motorized Volume Data Program (NC NMVDP). Researchers interviewed government agencies, commercial vendors, and private firms to determine the availability of various non-motorized counting technologies, where specific technologies are deployed, and the level of customer satisfaction with each piece of technology. Six technologies were evaluated for a qualitative cost-benefit analysis:

  1. passive infrared sensors
  2. inductive loops
  3. piezo-electric
  4. pneumatic tubes
  5. video processing; and
  6. depth cameras

When calculating the benefit-cost ratio (BCR), measurement accuracy and software quality (provided by the vendor) were considered benefits. The analysis used the costs of commercially available products and based benefits on system accuracy and quality. Benefits, costs, and BCRs ranged from very low to very high. The accuracy of passive infrared sensors and inductive loops were compared to that of standard piezo-electric, pneumatic tubes, video processing, and depth cameras technologies.

Lessons Learned

  • Deploy pneumatic tubes for bicycle counting applications for high system accuracy and low equipment and installation costs. They have a very high BCR, however the quality of pneumatic tubes is low. Comparatively, inductive loop systems have an acceptable BCR (with high accuracy, software quality, and equipment and installation costs). Piezo-electric systems have an acceptable BCR; system accuracy and installation costs are high, while software quality and equipment costs are low.
  • Deploy passive infrared systems for pedestrian and bicycle counting applications for high quality software tools. They are adequately accurate, the software is high quality, and costs are low, making the overall BCR very high. Comparatively, standard video processing systems have an acceptable BCR (with high system accuracy and software quality but very high costs). Depth camera systems have a very low BCR; system accuracy is very low, software quality is acceptable, and costs are very high.
  • Do not feel automatically inclined to make as much data available as frequently as possible. Maximizing data collection and information dissemination without considering the constraints of the system may result in performance issues. To determine the optimal frequency, agencies should first identify the objectives associated with each type of data report that will be generated. 
  • Establish and standardize quality assurance processes utilized in data collection methods. Centralized and statewide standards reduce (or prevent) data redundancies, decreasing the amount of effort and the costs associated with local data collection. This may also require data collection devices to be easy to install and transport.

State-of-the-Art Approaches to Bicycle and Pedestrian Counters

State-of-the-Art Approaches to Bicycle and Pedestrian Counters
Source Publication Date
Ozan, Erol; Sarah Searcy; Blythe Carter Geiger; Chris Vaughan; Chris Carnes; Craig Baird; and Aaron Hipp
Prepared by East Carolina University and North Carolina State University for the North Carolina Department of Transportation
Other Reference Number
Report No. FHWA/NC/2020-39