Bicycle Environmental Quality Index
The Bicycle Environmental Quality Index (BEQI) is a quantitative observational survey to assess the bicycle environment on roadways and evaluate what streetscape improvements could be made to promote bicycling in San Francisco. The survey has 21 empirically-based indicators, each of which has been shown to promote or discourage bicycle riding and connectivity to other modes of transport. Several of the indicators have been used in other bicycle indices from different regions in the country, while others are new concepts that have been found significant through other studies regarding healthy bicycle environments. SFDPH identified five main categories which embody important physical environmental factors for bicyclists: Intersection Safety, Vehicle Traffic, Street Design, Safety, and Land Use. Table 1 details each BEQI indicator under its broader environmental category. These indicators can be aggregated to create the final index (the BEQI), which can be reported as an overall index score, and/or deconstructed by the bicycle environmental categories shown in Table 1.
|Intersection Safety||Vehicle Traffic||Street Design||Safety/Other||Land Use|
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Background and Development
In June 2007, the SFDPH developed the BEQI to assess the quality of the bicycle network on Treasure Island. The values of the indicators were obtained by sending a survey to bicycle experts and members of the bicycle community in July 2007. The survey was promoted through the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition newsletter where 88 respondents completed the survey. The survey responses were used to devise numerical scores and weights for the BEQI. The total score for each street segment and intersection will reflect the bicycle quality for the area the BEQI is applied to. Data collection for the BEQI is based on a visual assessment of street segments and intersections by a trained observer. Two SF neighborhoods, Lakeshore and Treasure Island, were chosen as the two pilot study areas for the BEQI. Both locations were chosen because of the need for bicycle facility improvements The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) has a specific interest in the Lakeshore area and recommended this location, which was surveyed first. A group of SFBC members volunteered to survey both areas and participated in a BEQI training.
Based on the feedback received from the Treasure Island and Lakeshore pilot studies, in 2009-2010 SFDPH revised the BEQI and sent a new survey to bicycle experts in order to help clarify scoring weights and indicator values. There were 45 respondents to the second survey and Table 1 reflects the newest indicators used for the survey. SFDPH is currently in the process of using the newest survey results, as well as the most recent literature on bicycle safety, to update the BEQI survey form, manual and report.
As the BEQI is being developed, SFDPH continues to work closely with SFBC to finalize the indicators which determine a safe and adequate bicycle environment. SFDPH presented a BEQI update to the SFBC along with the SF Municipal Transportation Agency to get feedback on BEQI indicators, methods, and next steps. A more formal public peer review session will be held when the most recent version of the BEQI is close to being finalized.
Relevance to Health and Health Equity
Cycling to work, school, shopping, or leisure activities can be both a sustainable and time-efficient exercise regimen for maintaining acceptable levels of fitness. Studies have shown that bicycle commuters work more efficiently, arrive to work eager and alert, and due to a cyclists’ improved health, have fewer job-related injuries. The use of non-motorized transportation provides exercise, reduces fatal accidents, increases social contacts and reduces air and noise pollution. Increased exercise protects against heart disease and exercise is also recognized to have mental health benefits. Furthermore, traffic reduction on streets increases safety and opportunities for social interaction between residents and workers.
Applications and Policy Targets
Available results from the BEQI reveal the relative quality of the biking environment at a street-level scale in select San Francisco neighborhoods. Use of the BEQI can translate environmental variables into a set of provisions for a healthy bicycle environment and a BEQI assessment can inform neighborhood planning and prioritize improvements through the land use plans and environmental assessments. An application of the BEQI asks the following questions:
- Does a place have adequate and safe bicycle facilities throughout the neighborhood? - BEQI indicators are used to assess baseline conditions
- Does a plan or project advance bicycle facilities in the area? - Plans/projects should assess and evaluate the extent to which BEQI indicators are present
- What recommendations for planning policies, implementing actions, or project design would advance the bicycle environment? - Concrete, specific recommendations are provided to the plan/project based on the evaluation
For anyone planning to use the BEQI in their neighborhood or jurisdication, it is valuable to identify and meet with other agencies to provide feedback on the BEQI. In addition, it would be beneficial to hold focus groups to determine if all indicators are present and to re-analyze the value of each indicator. From focus groups, the BEQI indicator scores could be potentially re-weighted to determine a more accurate score for bicycle conditions. For more information on the BEQI, search this site's Document Library to download the draft BEQI manual, survey form, report, and the BEQI Microsoft Access Database and San Francisco GIS file.