How do communities survey citizen needs and attitudes about bicycling and walking?

Several techniques may be used to assess citizen needs and attitudes regarding bicycling and walking. Some highly recommended approaches include:

Image: Dan Burden

Opinion surveys of representative samples

Speaking directly with the target population and analyzing their responses may be the most accurate and informative method of collecting the needs and attitudes of citizens. However, it may be time consuming and costly.

Web forms

These provide easily accessible portals for citizens to provide commentary or to report needs in the community.

Image: Dan Burden


Audits can be valuable tools to help communities assess their bikeability or walkability. They are especially useful in pinpointing potential needs and issues and in identifying potential alternatives or solutions.

Workshops or design charrettes

These work sessions and meetings provide opportunities for the public to actively get involved in defining current needs and in crafting future solutions. They build ownership and increase awareness in the project at hand.

Image: Dan Burden

Community mapping

Community maps allow residents to create their own (and share) maps that highlight certain elements of their neighborhood or city. This technology could be used to highlight key amenities, such as bike-friendly travel paths or support stations, or it could be used to pinpoint intersections or sidewalks in need of better infrastructure and attention.

Scientific research

While each community is unique in their needs and their assets, previous research can inform best practices in information collection techniques.

  • This FHWA report documents and critiques existing data collection efforts from 29 different communities — Pedestrian and Bicycle Data Collection in United States Communities: Quantifying Use, Surveying Users, and Documenting Facility Extent.

Open houses allow community members to "drop-in" to have informal one-on-one meetings, but may not be as effective as other methods listed here. They often attract a skewed sample (the more vocal members of a community, for example), and they ask people to translate their street-level experience into words while inside a building. A workshop or "walkshop" is recommended as a substitute for an open house. For more public participation techniques, please see "Facilitating Public Participation":

More Information

In addition to collecting information about citizen attitudes, it is helpful to supplement this with information about current bicycle and pedestrian facilities and usage. See "Create a Fact-Base: Document Locations of Existing Facilities and Their Use" for more details:

Finally, consider participating in the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Document Project, which coordinates an annual count. The goal is to develop a national database of bicycle and pedestrian usage and demand.