How will you assess your project’s success — and identify opportunities to improve your process for future projects?
First, you’ll need to have a clear, objective picture of conditions in your campaign area prior to installation of signs. Planning for evaluation / assessment should start as soon as visioning, so that you have ample opportunity to establish baseline measures (where appropriate) before campaign implementation. Depending on the rigor of your assessment, this may be a project of its own — but the information you gather can be used not just to determine the success of your WYC work, but to fuel / evaluate future bike-ped projects.
Often when we think about evaluation and assessment, we think of metrics: counts and percentages that show behavioral change. However, qualitative data can be equally powerful. Actively solicit and keep track of verbal feedback from participants and attendees — be it constructive criticism, or kudos!
Preparing for evaluation
- What type of information will you gather: what kinds of quantitative data (such as percent changes in amount of folks walking on the street, as counted by trained observers) and / or qualitative data (such as resident and business owner perceptions of area walkability, obtained through surveys or interviews)?
To figure this out, you can ask a few more questions:
What type of information might be useful for your audience and / or partners to know more about, particularly for future work?
What type of information do you have the capacity — the resources, including time and people-power — to gather? (What’s feasible?)
Is there any information that’s already been collected that you might be able to build on?
- How will you prepare for info-gathering?
For area-specific evaluation (such as counting walkers on the street), you’ll want to carefully define the scope of your evaluation: will it be certain blocks or intersections of your project? If you’re going to have help collecting data, you’ll need to set aside time to talk through the process with your helpers.
- How will you use — and share! — the information you’ve gathered?
Will your results shape another WYC project, or future efforts to increase walkability in your community? Will you be making formal (or informal) recommendations to anyone based on the outcomes you’ve seen?
Possible evaluation tools and metrics (based on goals):
If shifts in transportation choices / behavior are your goal, the clearest way to capture change is through pedestrian and bicyclist counts.
- In addition to counting bicyclists and pedestrians, you can mark down additional information about their activities and interaction with the street, if you’re looking to understand or enhance folks’ use of public space. This can be recorded like your counts (see sidebar).
- You may also want to record information on drivers and transit users (if applicable), so you can show the change in bike-ped counts as a percentage of total trips.
Want to learn more about why these shifts in transportation behavior might be occurring — or people’s perception of their community’s walkability? Surveying / interviewing, while a bit more intensive, will enrich your understanding of community context. You can use e-mailed surveys, or (preferably) catch people on the street.
- To assess the impact of your campaign on any retail / restaurants in the area, you can issue pre- and post-implementation questionnaires to local business owners, asking them about their number of daily visitors, their perceptions of walkability in their district, and their total or average sales (if they’re comfortable sharing).
- One way to quickly capture folks’ impressions is with interactive visuals: you can create posters with questions related to the campaign area, and invite passers-by to mark their responses with stickers. This works well at events, where you might be occupied with explaining your project to others.
Looking to get more folks engaged in civic life? Social media impressions / reactions and event attendance are two ways to get (relatively) quick numbers reflecting community involvement.
- Event attendees: Whether at a public meeting or your campaign kick-off, you should already be getting names, organizational affiliations, and contact info (where appropriate) for those in attendance.
- Social media: Facebook and Twitter offer free tools for analyzing the reach of your posts / tweets. On your Facebook project page, you can select the “Insights” option at the top to see how your posts have performed (including how many times they were clicked); with Twitter Analytics, you can see your tweets’ reach, including their “impressions” on unique users, and the engagement rate (the amount of retweets, likes, etc, a tweet received, out of all impressions).
Any of these methods can be supplemented by a quick way to get a sense of place and activity: visual documentation. Take photos and video while you’re on the street, pre- and post-project. Not only does this give you great material for telling your campaign’s story, it can illustrate a project’s impact at a glance, particularly if your signs are teamed with other initiatives to get more feet on the street.
When you’ve installed your signs, you can track their use and share their locations via your campaign’s public page. This page includes general information about the campaign, a map and list of all signs, and total QR code scans (including the most-scanned sign). It also provides an opportunity for Facebook commenting. Share this page via you and your partners’ social media outlets and web sites: it’s a one-stop spot for others to check out your campaign.
To build on the success of your initial campaign, you can add more intersections to extend the project as needed (just move new signs to the original campaign so they show up on its public page), or you can create a new campaign that overlaps / is adjacent to the existing campaign’s area.
Ideas + Inspiration
You’ve created a successful WYC campaign: so, what’s next?
Piloting a project like WYC is just the first step in the process of making your community more walkable. After planning and implementing your campaign, you have a better sense of your community’s assets and challenges to walkability — and you’ve built relationships with potential partners for future projects. You also may have redefined your project goals after seeing campaign results.
There are a variety of short- and longer-term actions you can take on now: from additional pilot “interventions” in the built environment, to events and programming, to permitting and policy updates.