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Silent Sentinels on Davidson Sidewalks Tally Pedestrian Traffic

by | Sep 23, 2017 | Bottom Right Box, Front Page News, News

You may not notice them, but they’re watching you. A data collector outside Wells Fargo.

This past May, four non-descript, three-foot tall metal poles were installed on different Davidson sidewalks. They’re easy for you to miss, but they aren’t likely to miss you.

The poles are part of the State of North Carolina’s “Non-Motorized Volume Data Program” (NMVDP), which is designed to count pedestrian and bicycle passers-by in towns across the state.

Gathering data on pedestrian and bicycle (p&b) traffic is intended to help towns like Davidson make more informed decisions about the prioritization and funding of new pedestrian-friendly projects and facilities, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, restrooms, and crosswalks.

The Davidson recorders are located on South Main Street near Flatiron, on Main Street in front of Well’s Fargo, on Griffith Street near Roosevelt Wilson Park, and on Concord Road near Thompson Street. The poles contain mechanized counters and cameras to record pedestrians and bicycle riders. The pedestrian counters use infrared technology, while bike riders are counted via magnetic loop technology.

The recorders in Davidson are part of the second phase of a project designed by researchers at North Carolina State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE.) In phase one, recorders were placed in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Carrboro.

NMVDP Principle Investigator, Sarah O’Brian, noted that the state’s population growth, and moves to reduce auto emissions and increase exercise, has increased the number of non-motorized commuters. O’Brian explained, “Sometimes pedestrian and bicycle projects have to compete with automobile projects for funding. Without reliable data on pedestrian and bicycle numbers, it’s hard to effectively advocate for non-automotive projects.”

O’Brian noted that p&b data collection until now has been crude, and based on collisions. O’Brian said, “We might have a record of a pedestrian struck by an automobile at a certain spot, but we can’t put that in context of how many pedestrians walk in the same area each day. Therefore, we don’t really know how dangerous the area in question might be.”

The NMVDP is still in its early stages of this project, so no conclusions have been drawn from the data collectors. Phase two will place additional counters in Charlotte. Similar programs are also underway in Colorado and Minnesota.

To find out more about these data collectors and the NC State project visit The entire research report on phase 1 is available there at the link, “Phase 1 Final Report.”

Cathryn Westra

Cathryn Westra (Cat) is a Davidson alum ('11) who spent several years as a freelance writer and photographer in travel writing, science writing, and advertising. As a Davidson student and young alum she wrote for and Davidson College. Her writing later brought her opportunities to travel in India, France, and Haiti. In 2016, Cat returned to Davidson to be with her family: Frank, Ollie, and Nina in their little blue/gray house on South Street. 

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