Walkers, bikers get counted to help steer funding

SEATTLE -- Volunteers are fanning out in every county of the state counting pedestrians and cyclists in a transportation survey sponsored by the Department of Transportation.

They take their annual count over the same three day period every year, so they can compare the numbers from year to year. Transportation funding is limited so the state does this each year to know exactly where it should make improvements for pedestrians and cyclists to smoothly move together.

It's all done by volunteers, like Jimmy Schulz who bikes to work 20 percent of the time and drives the rest. He's one of 13 volunteers working in Burien. The Department of Transportation & Cascade Bicycle Club say using volunteers is cheaper and more accurate and efficient than electronic monitoring.

"We've got a little tally sheet that says, you know, was it a cyclist? Is it a walker?" Schulz said. "Are they heading northbound, southbound, eastbound, westbound?"

Schultz says he counted more than 50 pedestrians and 5 cyclists at one intersection Wednesday morning. All of these numbers will help cities and the state determine whether or not existing signals and crosswalks are working or if they need to make improvements.

Any city can ask to be included in the annual count, and Schulz said WABI Burien just came on board in the last couple of years.

"I think Burien's really come together in the last 5 to 10 years," Schultz said. "It's really started growing there, and have been some great improvements in downtown."

This is an annual project that takes place over 3 days, and is part of the Washington State Documentation Project. All of the numbers collected also go into a national database.