After waking up around 5 and drinking two thermoses of coffee, Kelli from Yoga For Bikers and I got a little loopy while counting bikes this morning for SDOT. We were staked out at Elliott and Denny from 6:30 until 9, tabulating bike commuters based on which direction they were headed, whether they were in the street or on the sidewalk, male or female, and wearing a helmet.
After about an hour, we started coming up with our own lingo. Bikers headed southbound were trout, northbound were salmon. If they were on the sidewalk, they were using the fish ladder. If they were wearing a helmet, they were wearing a condom. I can only imagine what people riding by thought when we said, “Female salmon, bareback.”
The bike count was carried out by volunteers placed strategically around downtown this morning. The data helps track bike usage and helps with planning and outreach efforts. For example, people angry about the proposed changes to 125th claimed that nobody rides on that street. Well, had we had bike count data, we could have seen more clearly what bike usage looks like (perhaps they are there, but on the sidewalk).
The gender issue was definitely the hardest part of the count. Besides being skeptical of gender binaries in general (there were no other options), so much of the bike commuter wear obscures gender. If a woman rides by in a bright yellow, male-cut jacket and a helmet, it can be difficult to tell. There’s not a lot of character in most bike commute clothing, unfortunately. It’s main focus seems to be function and being visible. But we did our best.
Another interesting thing we noticed is that it was very clear that people were more likely to ride on the sidewalk if there was heavy car traffic. Riding on the sidewalk is often more dangerous to bikers and takes away space from pedestrians. So when motor vehicles intimidate bikers onto the sidewalk, bikes take over pedestrian space. This is one more reason for safe bicycle facilities.
Anyone else do the count today? Post thoughts below.
I was on Alaskan Way by the ferry terminal @ Yesler. We had a lot of bike traffic, mostly in bursts as people got off the passenger ferries. My main complaint was that we could only check “street” or “sidewalk”. I think that location deserved a third category: “bike path”. Didn’t see any condom-wearing fish, though. They must have snuck by us.
i was posted at 47th and the ave in the university district this morning. to be honest, i was a bit sad this count was done before classes started at the uw, which i believe would have jacked up my counts by at least an order of 10, but still found it highly interesting. for instance:
-young/old/spandex/wool/4k or $10 bike/helmet or otherwise, only about 1/2 the bicyclists stop at a red light at this corner. i, for one, am all for the idaho stop at stop-signs, but found this disregard for the light comical. i do think getting ahead of traffic is frequently the safest method on bike, so might attribute this to our city’s decision to place sharrows on busiest possible streets, and their seemingly odd desire to *increase* car/bus vs. bicycle drag races, but still….
– you don’t have to wear a shirt while biking at 7am in 60 degree weather.
– some bus drivers can get their rigs going very quickly in absurdly short distances.
– if you sit on a crate, on the ave, with a clipboard. early in the morning, nearly every seemingly homeless person thinks you’re a cop, no matter what you say.
i’d recommend this experience for anyone. totally gonna do it again.
(btw, you can check out the results once tabulated at http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikeinfo.htm )
This post made me slap my forehead. I totally forgot that I had agreed to do this. To my fellow cyclists in general and the gentleman I was supposed to count with at the University Brigdge in particular: I apologize, I have let you down.
I swear I’ll set an alarm next year.
Awesome. Although I’m curious why sex (or more accurately, perceived gender presentation) is important to this data.
Awesome post! Coincidentally, as I am reading this, my roommate dumped the envelope from SDOT containing counting supplies on my lap. (A little late for the maps/forms/directions, but the business reply envelope to mail back the results will still get used!) I am definitely going to hijack some of the above jargon next year!
eric.br, your observations are hilarious although I had the opposite experience: My counting partner and I, sitting on a blanket with clipboard on Alaskan way in assorted spandex, were (politely) interrogated by a couple of private security guards (I’m sure our hooliganish appearance was aided by how young we both look and the frequency of bums in that area).
Ellie, gender (albeit perceived) data is useful for a couple of reasons. First, knowing there’s a huge gender discrepancy in Seattle, public agencies and advocacy groups can then try and figure out how to address and reduce that gap. Second, women as a group tend to prefer certain types of bicycle facilities/routes over others more than do men (specifically those in which they feel more protected from vehicular traffic). This data can help refine that generalization and influence what kind of facilities SDOT puts in and where.