Alexandria Letter: Questionable Data

Alexandria Letter: Questionable Data

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

A recent letter pointed to questionable data the city is using to support decisions. An example cited was the inflated number of Bikeshare members.

Another example of questionable data is the data used to justify and evaluate the green King Street bike lanes. Before installation, the city cited 11 cyclists during "peak hour." Seventeen months after installation the city cited 14 cyclists during "peak hour" (week of Sept 14 - 22). "Peak hour" is the highest hourly count during the observation period. Using the highest one hour count does not provide a meaningful measure of actual usage. When residents counted, during five rush hours there was an "average" of only three cyclists per hour and some of those rode on the sidewalk. Most of the time the bike lanes are completely empty.

The Bicycle Master Plan includes a performance measure for number of miles of bicycle lanes/facilities installed. Adding a performance measure to determine usage of these lanes was suggested, but not included. When the issue of measuring usage was raised, a City Council member wrote, "For me, as I've said from the beginning, this project was never about usage of the bike lanes, and always about how we improve the safety of the corridor for vehicles, pedestrians and bikers alike." And what was the safety issue on King Street that bike lanes would solve? The chart provided to City Council before installation of the green bike lanes showed total bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the past five years was one pedestrian crash.

The parking lane on King Street was removed to install these bike lanes, the lane which had provided safety for residents including safe entry to and egress from residents' driveways and safe pickups, drop-offs, deliveries, contractor and guest parking, etc. on this busy street. In spite of providing safety for residents, the city said the parking lane had not been adequately used. And what data supported this conclusion? The chart provided to City Council before removal of the parking lane showed that staff drove down King Street to count parked cars only 20 times in one year and reported "average vehicles parked" based on this minimal data.

Accurate data are critical, but are meaningless if statistically insignificant, interpreted incorrectly, or ignored. As the writer of the previous letter said, the city should "ensure that the information is reliable, valid and, most of all, accurately reflect the topic under discussion." Residents want to have confidence in data used for the city's decisions, especially when those decisions impact their daily lives.

Louise Welch