The Fremont bike counter hits 100,000 rider mark

The Fremont bike counter has reached the 100,000 mark in less than two months. That’s a lot of bikes!


About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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22 Responses to The Fremont bike counter hits 100,000 rider mark

  1. B says:

    How does that thing work? How can it tell a bike from a pedestrian? I’ve honestly wondered that ever since it was installed.

  2. Alby says:

    That’s NOT “a lot of bikes!” That’s mostly the same few people riding back and forth across the bridge. Big whup.

    For the sake of legitimate comparison, how many cars have crossed the bridge in the same amount of time? I’ll bet SDOT knows, and I’ll bet it’s hundreds of thousands more than “a lot of bikes.”

  3. ChefJoe says:

    It looks like the counter averages about 1,500 cyclists a day (that may include pedestrians too).

    In 2009, the average traffic flow over the Fremont Bridge was 28,800 vehicles per day

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      It does not count pedestrians. It uses a loop detector embedded in the sidewalk (like the ones that know when a car is waiting for a light). So unless you are a robot, it won’t count you.

      As for people pointing out that more people drive than bike, nobody was suggesting otherwise.

  4. Martin Westburer says:

    Wondering how can people think that a Bike Counter counts pedestrians. Must be the same people that do not believe in climat change.

  5. ChefJoe says:

    Well, if a supermarket door can detect dogs and people if it used that sort of detector the “bike counter” could count anything passing by.

    So it uses induction loops to count metal going over it… meaning it can count bike rims, sure… and probably some fraction of strollers, grocery carts, shoes with metal toes, amputee limbs made of aluminum, etc. Not a significant fraction, but some.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      It’s actually surprisingly accurate. You should go watch sometime. It does not count strollers (not even most jogging strollers). I don’t know how it does it. Magic, I think.

      • Family Ride says:

        It’s totally magic.

      • ChefJoe says:

        from family ride’s Nov 23rd post:
        We hung out (by the bike counter) for a while and saw a couple curious things, like a counted jogging stroller and an uncounted bike when two crossed in opposite directions on the same side.

        I suspect metal rims are the requirement. Most strollers nowadays lack metal wheels. But some day when I’m bored I’ll be sure to grab a bunch of random things and see what triggers the counter.

      • Mark says:

        A magnetic field perpendicular to the plane of bicycle wheels will induce an electrical current in the wheels. That current, in turn, generates its own magnetic field, which can be detected due to its interference with the original magnetic field. Some would call this magic, but others would call it an application of Maxwell’s equations.

        It seems to me that a pedestrian carrying a large loop of metal could fool the detector. Tom, you should walk across the bridge holding a bicycle wheel and see if you tick the counter!

      • no traffic lights says:

        yes, I’m certain it’s magic.

  6. Just a guy says:

    Although this counter certainly does feel like a novelty, we can’t manage our bicycle infrastructure – or our entire transportation infrastructure, for that matter – without collecting some hard data. This is a great first step towards including bicycles in the data we collect and use.

    • ChefJoe says:

      Yep, they should totally deploy count-only versions of these, coupled with a camera to verify that what triggers is actually a bicycle, in dedicated bicycle lanes that the city has created… like how they use those gas tube-based car traffic counters. Then we’ll have hard data on the usage of these bike corridors we have and can use that to model where more lanes are needed.

      • Mondoman says:

        Or where fewer lanes are needed.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Cycling rates are highly responsive to infrastructure. You could put a bike counter on the Ballard Bridge and conclude, what, that nobody in Ballard wants to bike over the ship canal?

        A bunch of numbers can’t tell you what asking a bunch of cyclists can: where people want to ride but can’t.

        Of course, our cycling network is so incomplete that you hardly need to ask people. It’s plainly obvious where the gaps are.

      • Bob says:

        Al, you are spot on. The Bicycle Master Plan focuses way too much on people who already bike, not people who are potential cyclists. The only thing this counter tells us is that the folks who already feel safe enough to bike regularly (less than 3% of the population) feel that Fremont is one of the least dangerous places…. which everybody already knows.

        Comments about the accuracy of the counter are hilarious. “What if it picked up people with strollers sometimes?!” I think traffic engineers understand that when the counter hit 100,000 it doesn’t meant that exactly 100,000 cyclists have passed through. We have the ballpark number now — I don’t think we need to delve into Maxwell’s equations and software algorithms to understand how many cyclists pass through Fremont.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Good points, Bob.

        One thing: far more than 3 percent of seattle residents bike regularly. Recent commute numbers say about 3.5%, and that does not include all the people who bike for reasons other than commuting (like to the grocery store or a friend’s house or to the park), and it does not include people who bike to work some days (the survey question asks which mode you used to commute most often in the past week). So all those people who bus to Redmond or Kirkland (you can’t really bike across the 520 bridge, after all) but bike everyone else in town are not included. Those numbers really only seen useful in terms of long-term trends (which shows cycling growing and growing).

      • Mike H says:

        A similar analogy I heard was “We don’t decide to build a bridge because we see lots of people swimming across.” Same could be said for bike facilities.

        What this counter can hopefully do is show us relative numbers in respect to certain constants. For example, we can see how the percentage increases or decreases depending on weather conditions, time of day, day of week, or month of year. Then, by using that information, if one took a day long count at an intersection, then they could apply various factors to determine what an average volume would look like.

  7. biliruben says:

    I find it kinda funny how easy it is to determine, by what I like to call the Crank-Quotient(tm), which of your articles has been linked to by the Seattle Times.

    • pqbuffington says:

      i’ll say…but what really fascinates is the supposed deep interest in scientific method, e.g. oh no, it counted a jogging stroller or it counts the same cyclist twice (to-and-fro’), but nothing of the science of the costs of internal combustion and the like.

  8. Nice to know that the numbers are getting higher and higher.
    No doubt that the falling economy does great things for the cycling industry :D

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