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West Seattle bike counter now operational

Image from SDOT
Image from SDOT

Seattle’s second bike counter launched with very little fanfare on a rainy Thursday afternoon at the east end of the lower West Seattle Bridge.

The counter has displays on both sides (the Fremont counter only faces north) and will start providing useful West Seattle bike traffic data online, as well.

While it is almost certain that the numbers will be lower than Fremont, one thing I’m particularly interested to see is if West Seattle traffic is more commute-oriented than Fremont’s. Also, are West Seattle residents more or less likely to bike to work in inclement weather due to the likely longer commute distances?

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What other questions do you think this counter might be able to answer?

Details from SDOT:

Bicyclists, now you can ride up and be counted on the  South Spokane Street swing bridge.

The new bike counter on the bridge began operating today. This may be the busiest cycling location in South Seattle, and it is a key route that most cyclists from West Seattle use to access downtown, which is why it was chosen as the site for Seattle’s second Eco-Totem counter.

Located along the east approach to the bridge, the totem counts all cyclists using the shared pathway and notes their direction of travel. This counter is essentially the same as the counter that was installed on the Fremont Bridge in 2012 except this one has a two-sided display. A number representing the daily total for bikes crossing the bridge is displayed along with a ‘bar’ showing the running total for each calendar year, a visual reminder to cyclists that their contribution to protecting the environment, reducing traffic congestion, and promoting healthy life styles is being counted.

Data from the new bike counter will begin appearing on SDOT’s website by tomorrow, http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikecounter.htm. As with the Fremont counter, the Spokane Street Eco-Totem is a gift to the City of Seattle from the Cascade Bicycle Club with funding from the Mark and Susan Torrance Foundation that covers installation and the first year of operations.

The new counter is an important addition to SDOT’s data collection program and will allow improved estimates of annual volume to be calculated for spot counts and other shorter-term data collections sites. All of these data sources combine to measure the city’s progress toward getting more people to travel by bike and to help determine what additional bike facilities would be most beneficial.

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22 responses to “West Seattle bike counter now operational”

  1. nomeato

    Has anyone else noticed that the new counter is not working properly? The counter failed to change from “85” to “86” when I rode over the sensors this morning. I turned around and rode back through, but still no change. I also watched several other cyclists ride over the sensors, but still no change in number. I wrote an email to SDOT to point this out, so waiting for a response.

    1. Mark B

      I noticed this, too, and I also noticed that on the way back (headed west), I was counted pretty easily. I think it might have something to do with speed? This morning I came off the bridge more slowly than normal and it seemed to count me right away…

  2. Lars

    I wonder if aluminuim or carbon bikes can be missed?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      It picks up the metal from the bike wheels mostly, if I’m not mistaken. So unless you have carbon rims, you should get picked up (if it is working properly, of course, though nomeato seems to have concerns about that).

  3. Aaron

    I saw the same thing. I was rider 45 this morning and it did not register for me. I am riding a steel frame Surly, nothing road fancy.

  4. onshay

    Same here – #35 this morning.

  5. Gary

    Sounds like the sensor needs to be adjusted. Still looking forward to seeing the “actual” daily counts instead of the once a quarter counts.

  6. AiliL

    I noticed yesterday that it didn’t count me immediately. I rode past, no change to the number, I stopped and watched, and then as I was watching, it clicked over to the next number (no other cyclists were around). So it likely is counting, just not very fast. So if one is heading east off the bridge you will be moving faster than the counter can click in front of your eyes. And I hesitate to look backwards while heading up the bridge, so personally, I’ll trust it to count me.

    The numbers will be interesting for comparison to the several times yearly manual counts. I suspect the numbers will be higher than expected and hopefully grow as the auto-traffic and bus routes slow down, and as more apartments are completed.

    1. AiliL

      One more thing, I think it’ll be a great response to those who say, “No one rides a bike from West Seattle so we don’t need no more stinkin’ bike lanes.”

    2. Lars

      Does the counter count eastbound and westbound riders separately? If so, looking back on the counter to see if you were counted wouldn’t show your crossing number.

  7. Gary Anderson

    Wou ld be nice to have a counter on the BGT where it crosses 25th Ave NE.

    1. Andres

      SDOT’s planning to do some work on that intersection in 2014, I believe. Maybe they’d be open to installing a bike counter at the same time?

  8. JAT

    I would like to know how it actually works, rather than conjecture – there’s nothing on that on the SDOT site and if it’s using the same technology devised to changing signals when a car is waiting, well, we all know that might not be the right approach…

    1. These counters work by detecting the metal in the wheels/frame of the bicycle, exactly like a stop-light detection system works.

    2. Gary

      Here’s a pretty good description of how these loop detectors work, or not..


      1. JAT in Seattle

        fantastic – thanks (I too was laboring under the “common misconception that an object must be ferrous”) I feel a whole lot better about a lot of traffic signals now…

  9. Eileen

    I think it would be helpful to have commute numbers now and them be able to compare them to after any improvements are made as I feel certain intersections safety is a big factor people willingness to commute.

  10. Based on all the discussion of whether the counters are counting people, maybe the most useful data we’ll get out of bike counters is how to calibrate sensor loops to detect bikes, for the benefit of traffic signals the world over.

  11. Gary

    Well based on the daily counts, it looks like there are about 220 core cyclists daily.

    1. Alex

      Heading home (westbound) at 4:30 the count was up to 360. That’s a pretty good number!

  12. Russ W.

    I still don’t think the counter is working properly. Last Wednesday on my morning commute, I and 20 or so other cyclists got stuck on the west side of the Spokane St. bridge while a big cargo ship passed through. After the bridge gates opened, everyone proceeded, and by the time people were passing the counter at the other end of the bridge, it was single file with a 1-2 second gap between riders. I was in the back of the pack, and I never saw the counter register a single bike.

    To me, it seems to work some of the time and not others. Tonight on the way home, I saw it count me as I passed by. But this morning and yesterday morning, there were 2 or 3 cyclists ahead of me by more than 10 seconds and the counter never registered. And it wasn’t just a delay … the counter had not budged by the time I looped around under the bridge on my way toward E. Marginal.

  13. […] to have it installed in early 2016. It will utilize the same counting technology as the Fremont and West Seattle counters, but the display itself will be more sleek and simple. Basically, it will look more like a […]

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