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Bike and Pedestrian Hot Spots in Hampton Roads

Bike and Pedestrian Hot Spots in Hampton Roads

To determine the usefulness of the bicycle and pedestrian components of the StreetLight transportation analysis platform, Virginia’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment (OIPI) partnered with StreetLight in September 2020 to allow Virginia users of StreetLight data to test those components.

For several years OIPI has contracted with StreetLight to provide eligible users—VDOT, VDOT consultants, and planners/engineers with regional Planning District Commissions and Metropolitan (Transportation) Planning Organizations—access to the geography of millions of trips made in Virginia over recent years.  StreetLight records these trips using the anonymous digital “footprints” of the cell phones we carry, via apps which we allow to record our phone’s location, e.g. a weather app that gives us the weather near our vicinity.

Although StreetLight has the ability to extract bike trips and pedestrian trips from its database of all trips, the OIPI/StreetLight contract ending October 2, 2020 did not include bike and pedestrian components.  In advance of the renewal of the contract—in order to determine the value of these components to Virginia users—OIPI partnered with StreetLight to allow temporary access to StreetLight’s bike and pedestrian data.  HRTPO staff’s participation in that trial (which ended September 17) produced the following bike and pedestrian portrait of Hampton Roads.

The map below indicates the level of bike activity in each hexagonal zone.  StreetLight measures bike activity using an index of relative trip activity, which allows one to compare the trip-making of one zone with that of another zone.  The index accounts for trips starting or finishing in each zone.

Map showing bike activity in Hampton Roads

Bike Activity, StreetLight Index, 2019

Source: HRTPO processing of StreetLight data

Top 10 Bike Zones in Hampton Roads, 2019

Top 10 Bike Zones in Hampton Roads, 2019

Source: HRTPO processing of StreetLight data

From the hundreds of zones on the map, HRTPO staff extracted the 10 zones with the most activity.  Based on this StreetLight data, higher levels of bike activity appear to be located in tourism areas (Oceanfront, Va. Marine Science [VMS] Museum), in employment areas (downtowns, Virginia Beach [VB] and Peninsula Town Centers), and on/near college campuses (Norfolk State [NSU], Old Dominion [ODU]).  Perhaps the bicycles provided by Newport News (NN) Shipbuilding for their employees to move about the facility explains the high bike activity there.  

The map below indicates the level of pedestrian activity (red for the highest level, green for the lowest level):

Pedestrian Activity, StreetLight Index, 2019

Pedestrian Activity, StreetLight Index, 2019

Source: HRTPO processing of StreetLight data

Top 10 Pedestrian Zones in Hampton Roads, 2019

Top 10 Pedestrian Zones in Hampton Roads, 2019

Source: HRTPO processing of StreetLight data

From the hundreds of zones on the map, HRTPO staff extracted the 10 zones with the most activity.  Based on the above StreetLight data, it appears—not surprisingly—that people walk the most in and near the downtowns of Norfolk and Portsmouth, where destinations are densely situated.  Pedestrian activity is also located in other employment areas (NN Shipbuilding, VB Town Center, and Oyster Point), in tourism areas (Oceanfront, Busch Gardens), and on college campuses (ODU, NSU).  Note that most of these high-pedestrian zones are also high-biking zones.

Data like this can be used by the HRTPO and its member localities to help identify the best areas in which to invest in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.  Fortunately, the new OIPI/StreetLight contract (which began this fall) includes multimodal data, which will allow for more detailed analyses.

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