How to Calculate Foot Traffic

Understanding the level of foot, or pedestrian, traffic at a specific location can be useful when making business decisions or seeking improvements from highway authorities. The information can be used to evidence the need for safer crossing points or wider sidewalks or simply in understanding how attractive a location is for a new business venture. Having accurate information is vital when liaising with highway authorities or business associates.

1Confirm the time period

Confirm the time period during which you wish to calculate the foot traffic. Highway authorities tend to focus on the morning and evening peak hours. Every location is different; try to count traffic over a slightly longer period than your target time, e.g., 7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. for the morning peak. If trying to understand how attractive a location is for business, count over the relevant peak periods or even the entire day.

2Draw a grid

Draw a grid with the required time periods down the left-hand side and different classes of pedestrian along the top (e.g., elderly, adults, children, cyclists). Use 5-minute time periods to allow an accurate profile to be calculated at the end of the process

3Find an appropriate and safe location

Find an appropriate and safe location from which to observe the pedestrians, and identify a visual reference point. Depending on the volume of pedestrians and the number of entry points, you may require counts over multiple periods or the assistance of others.

4Assign a different clicker for each class of pedestrian

Assign a different clicker for each class of pedestrian. Click each clicker when a pedestrian passes the visual reference point, covering all classes. At the end of each 5-minute period note the number on each clicker and transfer it to your table. Reset the clickers and start again.

5Has been completed

Repeat Step 4 until the whole survey period has been completed.

Total the columns and rows for each time slot and class of pedestrian. The column totals will allow an understanding of particular high demand of one particular class (e.g., children) over the whole period. This could be used for a variety of purposes, such as to justify a pedestrian crossing for children walking to and from school. It can help you determine whether a particular business would be atractive to one class. The row totals will identify overall demand during each 5-minute period and provide an accurate profile of the traffic buildup. Understanding the profile is also useful, e.g., it may help to confirm when to open or close a coffee shop.

Colin Park has worked in civil engineering and government since 1992. He is a chartered civil engineer with expertise in traffic and transportation, road safety engineering and education, flood protection, bridges and road design. Park holds a Master of Science in transport planning and engineering from Napier University in Scotland.