7 more bike counters planned in Seattle + Update on our journey to 1M Fremont bike trips

Yours truly posing on opening day for the Fremont bike counter. Photo by Anne-Marije Rook

Yours truly posing on opening day for the Fremont bike counter. Photo by Anne-Marije Rook

Cascade Bicycle Club announced Tuesday that the Mark and Susan Torrance Foundation and the Rails to Trails Conservancy will help purchase seven new electronic bike counters, mostly place on trails around the city.

Not all the counters will include a display keeping a live-updated tally, like the ones on the Fremont and lower West Seattle bridges. But all will gather 24/7, real-time usage data that will help shine more light on people’s cycling habits and track trends.

More details from Cascade:

“The more that we have information and data on the use of the city’s streets by bicyclists, the more we’ll be able to plan successfully and build successfully for a great bicycle system,” said Tom Rasmussen during the transportation committee hearing. “So these counters will help us a great deal.”

Benchmarked for 2014, the proposal calls for the following counters:

+ A bicycle counter and display on the Burke-Gilman Trail at 15th Ave Ne

+ A combined bicycle and pedestrian counter on:
– the Mountains to Sound Trail near the I-90 Bridge
– the Elliott Bay Trail in or near Myrtle Edwards Park
– the Chief Sealth Trail
– the Burke-Gilman Trail (exact location TBD)

+ bicycle counters without a display on:
–  the Broadway Cycle Track
– along a neighborhood greenway (exact location TBD)

I wish the Broadway counter had a display, since I bet it would be the most visual counter in the city. But simply having the data would be great, too.

And with the West Seattle Bridge counter’s troubles making accurate counts, I hope that lessons are learned and those issues are avoided with the new counters.

Will we make 1 million Fremont Bridge bike trips in 2013?

Click for interactive graphic

Click for interactive graphic

Meanwhile, it’s about time we checked in on Seattle’s attempt to reach one million bike trips across the Fremont Bridge in 2013.

The short version: It’s gonna take some real hustling to get there. We are likely on track to fall just barely short of the 1 million mark unless an unprecedented number of people continue cycling through the rainy late fall.

Let’s take a look at the math.

There are two good ways to measure how many bike trips across the bridge are made in a year: Measuring trips in the calendar year 2013 or measuring trips since the counter was activated October 11, 2012. In order to reach one million trips by October 11 (or, to be fair October 12 since the counter was turned on mid-day), people biking would need to cross the bridge 164,810 times in the next 25 days. This is very unlikely, since the busiest month on record so far was July with a remarkable 117,974 bikes trips across the bridge.

Trends suggest that we will probably fall about 75,000 trips short of one million on October 12. The counter will probably measure its 1 millionth trip sometime around Thanksgiving, still an impressive feat.

So, are we going to make it to one million trips in 2013? As of midnight, there have been 707,044 bike trips across the bridge since January 1. So we’re just over 70 percent of the way through the year, and we’re about 70 percent of the way to one million trips. That sounds promising, but there are a couple key problems. A: Bike trips are likely to be low during November and December and B: Since the biggest commute days are work days, bike trips plummet during the second half of December due to the holidays.

Seattle Bike Blog projections say we’ll probably fall about 75,000 trips short by that measure, as well. Compared to 1,000,000, a number like 75,000 seems so small. But that’s more trips than were measured in the entire month of November last year.

So unless one of y’all gets really bored and decides to ride circles around Fremont for a day or two, perhaps it’s time to start analyzing the data collected and see if we can identify some issues that can be addressed via programs, events and education efforts.

Because if we don’t make 1 million trips in 2013, I want Seattle to get there in 2014.

What ideas do you have? What do you see in the data collected that could help encouragement efforts?

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32 Responses to 7 more bike counters planned in Seattle + Update on our journey to 1M Fremont bike trips

  1. Gary says:

    After watching the counter on the West Seattle bridge, having a counter that is visible will help ensure that we get “accurate” counts vs “who knows what” counts. Seems like there are still glitches in the systems. Also if the Freemont bridge counter has the same issues as the West Seattle counter, those 75K riders could actually be out there.

    On the otherhand it doesn’t really matter what the number is, or how accurate it is, just that the counter is consistent, so that we can guage relative counts, ie month over month and year over year.

    What I am glad to see is that the general counts are much higher than the single day counts that the state does with humans. That could mean a couple of things though, that humans don’t count for enough of the day, or that the readers are double counting when they shouldn’t.

    • Jake says:

      I ride past both the WS bridge and Fremont counters on my commute, and anecdotally, I think the Fremont counter is much better tuned. I’ve seen it miss me maybe a handful of times out of the hundreds of times I’ve crossed, while being missed by the WS bridge counter is still a several-times-a-week occurrence.

  2. Forrest says:

    I mayyy already be guilty of this, but it’d be fun to get a whole group of people to mob the counter and see what kind of spike we could affect on the chart!

    • SashaBikes says:

      Forrest! I was chatting with my fella and I suggested challenging all of the area bike groups (.83, Cascade, others) to do some loop rides of South Lake Union to get those numbers up. It’d be on honor system, but each group has their riders report how many loops they do (like an elementary school jog-a-thon) and the group gets bragging rights.

      Extra bonus would be if riders got sponsorship ($0.10 a loop) from friends/families/companies, and donate funds to something that helps support biking.

  3. Taylor says:

    I was looking around the internet to find the tech specs on the bike counters used in Fremont and W. Seattle. Anybody know who makes these things?

    I have been messing around with a RaspberryPi and a crappy webcam to see if I can make on myself. I have it above 50 % accuracy in the limited trials that I have done with me and my roommate. Seems like we could open source this one.

  4. That is the geekiest picture ever (and I meant that in the nicest way)!

  5. Steve Campbell says:

    The Chief Sealth Trail gets a counter before the University or Montlake Bridges?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Montlake Bridge is supposed to get a (state-funded?) counting device of some kind as part of the 520 project, I believe. I’ll check into the status of that.

  6. Leif Espelund says:

    We got spoiled with unusually warm, sunny and dry May, June, and July. August and September have been unusually cool, cloudy and wet, with no sign of a change. Unless this turns around and we get an Indian summer, I don’t see the 1 million mark happening naturally. Too bad more folks don’t commute year round.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      December will always be a low-traffic month (same goes for cars) due to holidays. But yeah, we can do better to boost November through March numbers. Obviously will never be as high as summer, but I bet a lot of people could get into it and find that it’s really not so bad.

      And when bike share launches, the winter biking situation might change dramatically since people can catch a bus without having to load their own wheels on the front, then bike just the last part to work.

      Makes me wonder if a counter shouldn’t go downtown somewhere (other than the Elliott Bay Trail) so we can measure the effect of bike share that way. Unfortunately, there’s no bike-only infrastructure where we can place a reader!

      • Leif Espelund says:

        Fingers crossed for a second ave cycle track, it is sorely needed.

      • Gary says:

        You can measure “bike share” from looking directly at the “bike share” checkout/return numbers. No need for loop counters, unless you want to know where those folks go in-between pickup and drop-off. (unless they install GPS in the bikes for theft deterence and NSA snooping…)

      • RTK says:

        The week of May 6th is still the highest weekly count. I’m surprised that it wasn’t beaten during the summer. I remember after that week was recorded wondering how high we would get in mid-summer.

        Combination of the start of bike to work month and great weather?
        Were those really nice weeks too hot for folks that ride in their work clothes?
        People involved in too many different activities during the summer?

      • Gary says:

        A couple of things happen in the summer which cut down on the counts.

        *) UW classes are much reduced as most students don’t attend the summer Quarter.

        *) People go on vacation and don’t ride to work.

        *) Kids are out of school, which means parents have to be somewhere to pick them up, (day camp, kid daycare etc.) and thus can’t ride because of the extra time it takes to commute.

        *) accidents, people ride but then get hurt and have to stop for a few months and heal.

  7. Zach says:

    Speaking of consistency, I noticed that I was double counted on the Fremont bridge this morning (around 9:15, no cars and no other bikers). Obviously this seems a bit hard to replicate since there are almost constantly other people around there but curious how often this happens. Still, double counting is better than no counting.

  8. Corey Burger says:

    These counters often have issues with power lines of various kinds in the area (Vancouver’s trolley wires often play havoc with their counters) and can’t count people riding two abreast. These are probably a cause of some of the undercounts.

  9. Christoph says:

    I bet naturally numbers will spike to some even small extent for folks who want to be the 1,000,000th rider; but it might be worth seeing if somebody would put up some kind of reward or offer to be the millionaire like lead some city bike parade, etc., etc.

  10. Maria says:

    These locations are all well-trafficked and symbolic and all, but I’m a bit disappointed that Montlake and University bridges aren’t on the list. Those + Fremont would provide a really nice way to separate route selection effects from true changes to bike traffic volume.

  11. ride bikes says:

    I’ll admit it – my favorite way to past time while the Fremont Bridge is up is to ride tight circles over the inductive loops used by the counter. While it doesn’t amount to much, it’s entertaining to see how many loops you can do while waiting for Jane and John Doe’s luxury yacht to pass below. Of course, this only works heading southbound…

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that the counter appears to be hard-coded to standard time. Not that it’s an issue with the data itself, but it’s unclear if the Tableau visualizations on SDOT’s website take this correctly into account.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      The standard time issue would mean that during daylight savings an hour of crossings would be under the wrong day? Interesting observation. It all comes out in the wash, of course, especially since there probably aren’t all that many trips around midnight.

  12. Ellie P says:

    When you say getting to 1 million trips in 2014, which counter(s) do you mean? As for ideas about beefing those numbers… In 2013 I probably have averaged 10-15 bike trips a week, with 95% occurring entirely north of the ship canal. Surely other regular riders are uncounted, too. Now my commute brings me over the Montlake Bridge. Adding that and the U Bridge in would be a start, but again, it’s hard to know how many unique trips are occurring city-wide, even with more counters.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I mean just the Fremont Bridge.

      Yeah, many more trips than that are happening, of course. It was just something of a coincidence that Fremont Bridge trips are so close to such a nice round number like 1 million :-)

  13. Pingback: Broadway bikeway rider totals will be counted — $20,000+ needed to put it on display | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  14. Pingback: Broadway bikeway rider totals will be counted — $20,000+ needed to put it on display | theCiv

  15. Pingback: People biked over the Fremont Bridge 926,025 times in 2013 + cycling rates up 17-20% year-over-year | Seattle Bike Blog

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