WATS: Seasons Change and So Do the Behavior of Pedestrians and Bicyclists

The Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) has been collecting annual pedestrian and bicycle traffic data since 2016 with the installation of three permanent counters. The three permanent counters are in the City of Dexter on different sections of the Border to Border Trail and in Pittsfield Township on the Lohr Textile Greenway. These counters can differentiate between pedestrians and bicyclists.

Counting non-motorized activity is still pretty new in our region. While WATS was collaborating with local communities on the placement of these counters, a decision was made to focus on places that could continuously count users to show how weather and seasons may impact use.  Data collection tells us that these facilities have been heavily used during the fall, spring, and summer seasons and drops off during the winter months. We also have witnessed that with these specific locations they have been used more on the weekends, which can suggest that there is a large recreational component to these facilities.

The chart below shows the average temperatures by week for 2018 and 2019. With the green and red lines showing the corresponding use. The temperatures indicate that nicer overall weather leads to higher use of these facilities while colder weather is a reduction, there are still people actively using these facilities year-round.

In the table below, from 2018-2019, the total number of pedestrians and bicyclists are highest during the summer months, when our counters captured over 186,000 pedestrians and 99,000 bicyclists from the three locations. When you compare that to the winter months there is a 70% reduction in pedestrian use and a 94% reduction in bicycling.

Data collection around the region is growing with partners such as SEMCOG, the City of Ann Arbor, and regional trail groups like TART Trails in Traverse City and the Detroit Greenways Coalition in Detroit collecting and monitoring non-motorized activity. WATS continues to collect data using the three permanent counters, in-person counts, and 7-day mobile counts year-round. All data collected by WATS to date can be found HERE