But then March happened, and employers shut down offices and fired workers. Unemployment skyrocketed along with working at home as our city attempted to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes covid-19. And you can easily see this all play out in different ways through the data collected by the city’s 24/7 bike counters. I taught myself some new spreadsheet tricks and reorganized my bike counter data system, so I have a bit of new data to share.
Let’s start with the Fremont Bridge, typically the busiest single crossing point for people biking because so many different local and regional bike routes funnel to this single crossing of the Ship Canal. As we reported earlier this year, the bike counts across the Fremont Bridge completely shattered all previous records in 2019. It wasn’t even close. 2019 counts passed the all-time record for bike trips in a single year just a week or so after Halloween, and the counts did not slow down after that.
The new year didn’t stop the momentum. Even with January’s snow, 2020’s count was a few percent higher than the average January, most of which had no snow at all. And February, wow. February was a stunning 47% higher than the average of all previous February counts.
Then people started dying of covid-19, and we realized the virus was already here. As society completely reorganized itself, the way we typically gauge bike use became obsolete over night. The Fremont Bridge bike counts plummeted because commute trips, especially trips headed downtown, plummeted. The fall was not as precipitous as the fall in car trips, which were down more than 50% in Seattle, but the shift from a 47% increase in February to an 18% decrease in March is symbolic of how quick and difficult the shift to life under lockdown was. Continue reading