Wondering why there were video cameras on Kennewick’s Fourth Avenue last week? If you were on a bike, you were exactly who they were looking for.
A government agency installed the cameras and other traffic measuring devices across the Tri-Cities for a few days recently to record traffic on area roadways. The data isn’t for a particular improvement project, though.
“We just need baseline data,” said Len Pavelka, a planning specialist with the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments.
The agency is charged with transportation planning for the region. It has begun using various methods to measure traffic issues in the Tri-Cities as part of a congestion management process.
Pilot cars drove some corridors in the fall, using GPS to track their movements and record how long it took to complete routes.
And this spring, cameras and other traffic measuring tools were used for the first time to collect car and bike counts.
The tubes or cables laid across roads count cars as they drive over them, and the cameras watch the bike and pedestrian use since cyclists and walkers don’t always trigger the street counters.
Bike travel has become of particular interest to the council. A recent community meeting on the issue drew more than 70 people who talked about where there needs to be bike access or where it can be improved.
So why record bike traffic on Fourth Avenue?
The most congested streets in the Tri-Cities are the least friendly to bikes, Pavelka said. In Kennewick, Clearwater Avenue and Columbia Center Boulevard are the busiest corridors.
That leads cyclists to find alternate, parallel routes that are safer. When cyclists were asked which routes they used instead, officials learned that Fourth Avenue and Steptoe Street were preferred by bikers.
Pavelka said the agency will continue the study each fall and spring. That will allow planners to see how traffic patterns change over time and help determine what road improvements are needed.