Pedal Poll bike count is here and VeloCanadaBikes needs your help

Two people cycling on a separate pathway along traffic. there are several trees and there is a book store in the background.
Separate bike infra on Main St in Ottawa
Reading Time: 3 minutes

For the forth time, volunteers across Canada fan out to count cyclists and pedestrians for the annual Pedal Poll in the second week of June.

Lawn chair

You may have seen them sitting along the pathways: people in a lawn chair or some other arrangement, cell phone in hand counting cyclists and pedestrians going by. Pedal Poll is an initiative of VeloCanadaBikes, Canada’s national cycling advocacy group.

A brown lawn chair is placed on a large grassy area, being the experimental Farm in Ottawa. There are several trees in the background
The not so orange Hans on the Bike lawn chair at 7 am along the Experimental Farm pathway during a smokey forest fire season on June 7, 2023

Now in its fourth year, on several days in June (June 4-9 2024 to be precise) hundreds of people in 34 focus communities across Canada sit down again for a few hours to collect data in a specially designed Counterpoint app.

Pedal Poll Locations

Over the years, a number of counting locations have been established but the organisation is always open to new locations too. Ottawa volunteers sit for example along the Trillium Pathway, Gladstone, Rideau River pathway, Centrepointe Park, Donald St. and the Experimental Farm pathway to name but a few well known spots.

I have participated a number of times too; it is a very easy task and once your shift is over, you submit the data to the server and the rest is taken care off. Sadly, the data I collected somehow didn’t make it to the server, but it was a shitty smokey forest fire day last year anyway, and the numbers weren’t great.

COVID years as a baseline for Pedal Poll

As the first count was in 2021, in the middle of the COVID, the numbers are quite skewed. We have data from back to 2010 via other sources and 2021 was probably the worst time to start. On the other hand, it also rang in a new era in Ottawa as so many people don’t have to come to the office five times a week anymore. So from that perspective, 2021 is a good baseline. We’ll probably (actually, I am quite sure) see a growing trend towards more and more weekend cycling.

Pathways popular

For those living in Ottawa, it doesn’t come as a surprise that multi use pathways are the most popular places to bike. VeloCanadaBikes kindly produces an infographic PDF with the data for every city. Ottawa’s infographic can be found here on Google Drive. I should mention all data is open data, downloadable per city from the website here.

More volunteers needed

VeloCanadaBikes is looking for more volunteers who want to help out for several 2 hour shifts. Even if you do one shift, that is fine. There is not much to it: you have to download the app and start counting. If you don’t have a cell phone or don’t want to use it, you can even download and print off a few sheets, then count by hand. Instructions are on the website.

If you have trouble visualising where the Ottawa spots are, take a look here. The link also appears on the sign up sheet.

I can say from experience that it’s fun to see all those different bikes going by and be amazed how many different brands are out there. In the past we also tried to guess gender, age and ethnicity, which at times I found quite hard but it gives a rough idea.

Sign up for Pedal Poll

Join the counting by volunteering a few hours and sign up for a shift here. As I write this on May 15, I estimate that about one third of the shifts is filled. For the website of the poll, go here. If you want to know more about the Counterpoint app, go here.

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  1. Hans
    My sister lives in Dordrecht
    And I am going to NL at the end of August. I was planning on renting a bike in Amsterdam and then cycling to her house stopping in Noordwijch en see for two nights then continuing on. I was wondering where I can rent a bike that I can take from Amsterdam but leave in Dordrecht. Is there a company that does this? It is about 8hours of biking between the two points.

    • I don’t know much about the Dutch bicycle rental scene, but I am guessing that the vast majority of the rental places are locally active only.

      What I suggest is that you either turn your trip into a loop f.e. via Amsterdam, Haarlem, Noordwijk Leiden and back via another route and drop the bike off in Amsterdam or you do your original route to Dordrecht and then take a quick train back to Amsterdam with the bike (every train takes bikes on board) and then come back to Dordrecht with for example a stop for a few hours in a place like The Hague, Leiden, Delft or Rotterdam. Noordwijk is not a terribly exciting place but National Park Kennemerduinen is nice to bike through.

      A direct train from Dordrecht to Amsterdam, one way is around €20 and takes 1.5 hrs.

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