2017 Annual Report (Year 4)

Introduction

Columbia Association (CA) coordinated the fourth annual Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Program in May and June 2017. These counts are done manually. Each location is surveyed on multiple days and — depending on location — various times of day. Counts are completed in two-hour increments.

The count program included 14 bicycle and pedestrian count locations: Lake Kittamaqundi, Lake Elkhorn, Little Patuxent Parkway, Wilde Lake, Jackson Pond, Tamar Drive, the Gateway office park, the Guilford Pratt Truss Bridge, the Columbia Road pedestrian overpass, the Cedar Lane pedestrian overpass, the Harpers Farm Road pedestrian overpass, the Route 1 and Montgomery Road intersection, and the Route 1 and North Laurel Road intersection.

For the second year in a row, Columbia Association partnered with the Howard County Office of Transportation. More than 30 volunteers assisted with the counts. The information gathered helps CA and the Howard County Office of Transportation better understand bicycle and pedestrian usage and trends.

2017 Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Locations

pedestrian count location map

Image Source: Columbia Association, Office of Planning and Community Affairs

Trend Analysis

Volunteers recorded pedestrians, bicyclists and other active transportation users at the count locations. As with any volunteer effort, there are times when volunteers were not able to honor their commitment, and thus a handful of counts were not completed. This has an obvious impact on the total number of users counted at a particular location. For this reason, two-hour averages are used to analyze bicycle and pedestrian usage over time.

Inclement weather also impacts counts, as well as comparisons to previous years. This year, one weekday had thunderstorms during the count period compared to last year where there were no days of inclement weather. This played a role in the total number of people counted.

Pedestrian Counts

Downtown Columbia had the largest number of pedestrians counted (two-hour average) on the weekend, with 566. Lake Elkhorn had the largest on the weekday, with 241. The largest increases from 2016 to 2017 for both weekday and weekend counts occurred at the Downtown Columbia location, with 36 on the weekday and 252 on the weekend. It should be noted that Downtown Columbia only had one weekend count instead of two, which happened to fall on the Capital Jazz Festival weekend. The largest percent increase from 2016 to 2017 for weekday counts also occurred at Downtown Columbia, with a 150 percent increase. Tamar Drive had the largest percent increase from 2016 to 2017 for weekend counts, with 156 percent. Comparing the initial pedestrian counts in 2014 with 2017 results, Lake Kittamaqundi South had the largest weekday increase of 736 percent and Lake Kittamaqundi north had the largest weekend increase with 237 percent.

Comparison2014 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2015 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2016 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2017 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2014 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
2015 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
2016 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
2017 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
Downtown ColumbiaN/A542460N/A93314566
Wilde Lake577374998713675110
Lake Elkhorn160321306241303205157297
Lake Kittamaqundi North3711616713663166162212
Lake Kittamaqundi South22156201184111130139203
Jackson Pond60116110101758858102
Tamar Drive1737463333243487
Pratt BridgeN/AN/A9488N/AN/A7166
Gateway61899488N/AN/AN/AN/A

Three count locations are at the overpasses. Last year, the Harpers Farm Road count location had limited and unreliable count data, so the 2016 field is left N/A. Overall, significantly more people use the Columbia Road and Cedar Lane overpasses compared to the Harpers Farm Road overpass. This is a result of their location. The Columbia Road and Cedar Lane overpasses provide direct access from neighborhoods to elementary schools, while the Harpers Farm Road overpass provides access to the Harper’s Choice Village Center. Anecdotally, it is noted that more people cross at-grade on the street rather than the bridge at the Harpers Farm Road overpass location. This is likely because school-age children are not the dominant users at this location and the overpass route is not a direct crossing.

Roadway Overpass Locations: Pedestrians

Pedestrian Roadway Overpass Locations2016 Weekday Average
(2 hours)

2017 Weekday Average
(2 hours)

Harpers Farm Road OverpassN/A11
Columbia Road Overpass6366
Cedar Lane Overpass180203

Two count locations are located on the Route 1 corridor at the intersection of Montgomery Road in Elkridge and North Laurel Road in Laurel. Of the 14 count locations in the program, these are the only two that collect pedestrian and bicyclists movement along a street. The two-hour averages are nearly identical during the AM and PM from 2016 and 2017, with the exception of the North Laurel PM two-hour average. This is due to a significant increase in pedestrians counted at the North Laurel location in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 31, which nearly doubled the PM average from the previous year. It should be noted that the data could not be verified with the volunteer and was not seen on other dates/times in this location.

Route 1 Pedestrians

Count Locations2016 AM Average2016 PM Average2016 Total2017 AM Average2017 PM Average2017 Total
Montgomery Road10193992088
North Laurel Road24441352284211

Bicyclists

Lake Kittamaqundi North had the highest two-hour average total of bicyclists counted on the weekend with 60, and also saw the greatest increase of bicyclists from 2016 to 2017 with 120 percent.

Lake Elkhorn had the highest two-hour average total bicyclists counted on the weekdays, with 37. However, this is a decline from last year’s average of 62. This is likely a result of the inclement weather during the 2017 counts. The largest two-hour average increase in bicyclists on the weekdays occurred in Downtown Columbia, with a 226 percent increase. Comparing the initial pedestrian counts in 2014 with 2017 results, Lake Kittamaqundi South had the largest weekday increase of 533 percent, or 16 bicyclists, and Lake Kittamaqundi North had the largest weekend increase of 122 percent, or 33 bicyclists.

Comparison2014 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2015 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2016 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2017 Weekday Average
(2 hours)
2014 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
2015 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
2016 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
2017 Weekend Average
(2 hours)
Downtown ColumbiaN/A12516N/A1085
Wilde Lake1010111328304021
Lake Elkhorn2146623787644023
Lake Kittamaqundi North316211527332760
Lake Kittamaqundi South322211937424239
Jackson Pond1025121428282517
Tamar Drive520201826454314
Pratt BridgeN/AN/A3229N/AN/A5423
Gateway02229N/AN/AN/AN/A

Overall, the pedestrian roadway overpass count locations did not see a lot of bicycle use.

Roadway Overpass Locations: Bicyclists

Roadway Overpass Locations – Bicyclists2016 Weekday Average (2 hours)2017 Weekday Average (2 hours)
Harpers Farm RoadN/A0.5
Columbia Road20.5
Cedar Lane04

The two Route 1 locations had fewer bicyclists compared to the pedestrian count. Both the AM the PM count location two-hour averages are nearly identical from 2016 to 2017, showing consistent bicycle use patterns.

Route 1 Bicyclists

Count Locations2016 AM Average2016 PM Average2016 Total2017 AM Average2017 PM Average2017 Total
Montgomery Road1451313
North Laurel Road67207830

Demographics

Similar to the previous year, the highest percentage of youth were at the Columbia Road and Cedar Lane overpass pedestrian bridges, with 64 percent and 65 percent respectively of the total count. This is due to their proximity and direct safe access from nearby neighborhoods to local elementary schools. The lowest youth percentage occurred at the Gateway office park, which is expected given that it is entirely employment-related uses. The highest percentage of older adults were found at Lake Kittamaqundi North (12 percent) and Wilde Lake (11 percent). The Route 1 locations had the highest percentage of males, with 89 percent at the North Laurel intersection and 74 percent at the Montgomery Road intersection. The highest percentage of females were at the Cedar Lane overpass pedestrian bridge and Downtown Columbia.

Demographics of All Count Locations (Pedestrians and Bicyclists)

Count LocationsYouth Average PercentageOlder Adult Average PercentagePercent FemalePercent Male
Downtown Columbia3%1%53%47%
Wilde Lake12%11%50%50%
Lake Elkhorn13%10%51%49%
Lake Kittamaqundi North13%12%50%50%
Lake Kittamaqundi South12%5%50%50%
Jackson Pond19%6%41%59%
Tamar Drive8%3%26%74%
Pratt Bridge8%3%39%61%
Gateway0%2%43%57%
Columbia Road64%0%48%52%
Cedar Lane65%0%54%46%
Route 1 North Laurel14%2%11%89%
Route 1 Elkridge16%3%26%74%

Summary and Lessons Learned

The fourth annual Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Program was successful and resulted in valuable information for Columbia Association and Howard County’s Office of Transportation. However, this year presented a couple more challenges than 2016. There was one day of inclement weather, which limited data collection Wednesday, May 31, whereas the previous year had no days of inclement weather. Also, a few more count locations did not have a volunteer register or the volunteer did not show-up compared to the previous year. Fortunately, each location was able to get at least one weekend count and two weekday counts to provide measurable data.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Program has typically begun on Memorial Day weekend and continued into the first week of June. Historically, this week period is free from other programmed events on CA open space that might impact bicycle and pedestrian count data. While not a challenge in the past, this year proved difficult to recruit volunteers to count on Memorial Day weekend. Next year, consideration should be given to alternative weeks in spring that are near Memorial Day weekend to provide similar count data with the opportunity to recruit more potential volunteers.  

Later this year, Columbia Association and Howard County’s Office of Transportation will augment the information collected through the Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Program with two permanent automated pathway user counters after securing a grant to help fund the project earlier this year from the state of Maryland. They will be installed at Lake Elkhorn and near the Route 29 pedestrian bridge in Oakland Mills. The grant also helped fund six mobile automated pathway counters, which will rotate in various locations around Columbia and Howard County.