Using a Bicycle-Pedestrian Count to Assess Active Living in Downtown Wilkes-Barre

Wilkes-Barre, a town in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley with a population of 40,000 people, received from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living by Design initiative a 5-year grant in 2003. The grantee, Wyoming Valley Wellness Trails Partnership and other organizations worked to create a revitalized, walkable downtown. The partnership implemented mixed-use development and created a business-improvement district with a focus on cleanliness and security. Other activities included extensive renovation of River Common Park, part of the trail network in the downtown area running along the Susquehanna River.

To understand the impact of walkability improvements, these researchers piloted a Wilkes-Barre Downtown Bicycle and Pedestrian Count. The partnership selected seven sites to capture data—a public transportation hub, key retail locations, a community center, and river access points. During 18 hours of counting, staff recorded 15,347 pedestrians and 773 bicyclists. The largest number of pedestrians was observed during lunch hours. Some 46 percent of pedestrians were women; 10 percent of bicyclists were women. Understandably, the number of bicyclists varied with the weather. The most bicycling activity occurred during evening, weekday and weekend hours.

This initial count will allow data to be compared across locations and time intervals and help when setting goals for increasing walking and biking in the city.