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Real-time bike counters now installed in 9 locations around the city

Permanent Bike Counters MapYou no longer have to bike all the way to Fremont to get counted. The city — with support from the Rails to Trails Conservancy and the Mark and Susan Torrance Foundation — has installed seven new real-time bike counters around the city. This brings the city’s total to nine.

The new counters do not have a visual display like the ones already installed near the Fremont and Spokane St bridges, but the data collected will be the same and available online starting in February.

In addition to counting bikes, new counters on the Burke-Gilman, I-90, Chief Sealth and Elliott Bay Trails will count people walking, too.

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Other counters installed in Ballard, Northeast Seattle and West Seattle will measure bike usage on neighborhood greenways, providing out first real data about how well they are being used and, importantly, how use grows as more people learn about them and they become better connected to the city’s bike network.

Details from SDOT:

Seattle is working to make bike riding a comfortable part of daily life for people of all ages and abilities. Toward this end the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is constructing neighborhood greenways, protected bike lanes and multi-use trails; installing signs to guide people to their destinations; and putting in bike detectors at traffic signals. By creating comfortable places to ride bikes and connections to parks, schools and business districts, we hope more people will discover the practicality and joy of bicycling.

The next step is to monitor our progress. SDOT recently added seven new bike counters (four of which also count pedestrians) to neighborhood greenways and multi-use trails. The counters are helping us create a ridership baseline in 2014 that can be used to assess future years and help us reach our goal of quadrupling ridership by 2030. Unlike the two existing bike counters on the Fremont and West Seattle bridges, the bike counters do not have electronic display totems. But that doesn’t make them any less valuable.

“It is important to use our limited funds wisely and data driven decisions help us do this,” said Kristen Simpson, SDOT Plan Implementation Manager. “Collecting bike and pedestrian data helps guide our investments and measure our progress while building a transportation system that gives Seattleites great travel options.”

“While these bike counters may not offer the instant gratification of being visually counted like the Fremont and West Seattle counters, they are an important addition to SDOT’s measurements of Seattle’s progress toward getting more people to travel by bike. The more data we have, the better we’ll be able to plan for and build a safe bicycling network for people of all ages and abilities,” said Jeff Aken, Principal Planner at Cascade Bicycle Club.

Three counters were installed on neighborhood greenways (see attached map):

  • 26th Avenue Southwest at Southwest Oregon Street in Delridge
  • 39th Avenue Northeast at Northeast 62nd Street in Wedgewood
  • Northwest 58th Street at 22nd Avenue Northwest in Ballard

Seattle is building a network of greenways to give people healthy travel options and help move us toward our safety goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. The counters consist of two small tube sensors stretching across the street, which are attached to a small metal counting box made by Eco-Counter. The tubes only count people riding bikes. They are very accurate and designed to be used on greenways.

Four counters have been located on multi-use trails (see attached map):

  • Elliott Bay Trail in Mrytle Edward Park
  • Burke-Gilman Trail north of Northeast 70th Street
  • Chief Sealth Trail north of South Thistle Street
  • Mountains to the Sound Trail west of the I-90 floating bridge

Multi-use trails link neighborhoods to business districts and create connections with recreational and natural areas within the Puget Sound region. Also made by Eco-Counter, these sensors count both people riding bikes and pedestrians. Separate volumes are tallied for each travel mode. Wires in a diamond formation in the concrete detect bikes and an infrared sensor mounted on a wooden post detects pedestrians. The counters also capture the direction of travel for both bikes and pedestrians.

Data from the counters will be downloaded at the beginning of each month. It will be uploaded to Data.Seattle.gov and be available for public use starting in February. All counts are recorded in one hour intervals and will include a total overall count and, as available, a directional count.

SDOT plans to install at least three more counters this year. Additionally, numerous one week counts will be conducted at selected locations throughout the city each year. The data from the permanent counters will enable estimates of annual bicycle volume to be calculated at the one week count locations.

Special thanks go to the Rails to Trails Conservancy and the Mark and Susan Torrance Foundation for funding half of the cost. The data counters installed on our multi-use trails will be used in the Rails to Trials Conservancy’s Trail Modeling and Assess­ment Platform (T-MAP). This is a $1.2 million, three-year initiative to create the next generation of trail planning data collection instruments, methodologies and analysis tools.

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27 responses to “Real-time bike counters now installed in 9 locations around the city”

  1. […] via Real-time bike counters now installed in 9 locations around the city | Seattle Bike Blog. […]

  2. Jessica

    cool, I saw that diamond formation in the pavement on the Burke Gilman at 70th street and didn’t know it was for this! Looking forward to the data being available.

  3. Q

    “Seattle is building a network of greenways to give people healthy travel options and help move us toward our safety goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.”

    Disgusting how it’s acceptable for another nearly two decades of vehicular massacre while the powers at be try to figure out what went wrong with the social experiment known as the automobile.

  4. Owen

    I wonder what the cost associated with installing these types of counters at the roosevelt and montlake bridge would be.

    1. I was wondering the same thing! Going north-south, the only options for bikes are on bridges: University, Montlake, Fremont, the Locks (& Ballard/Aurora, which are less conducive). I know we want counters across town, but there must be an eventual timeframe?

  5. sb

    How costly are the visual displays?

  6. Gary

    Nice! With these counters there will be no denying that bicycles are a valid form of transportation.

  7. Gary

    Of course there are no counters next to the UW on the Burke. Can’t count students who ride, only bonified commuters with jobs. Probably should have counters next to Pacific U, and Seattle U.

    Another don’t count what you don’t see to know.

    1. I think there might be a WSDOT counter at the Montlake Bridge — I’m pretty sure I’ve seen loops in the pavement there.

      The complete omission of central/eastern Seattle, in the broadest sense (including greater downtown, Cap Hill, First Hill, the CD and all the neighborhoods along Lake Washington — I-90 bridge only counts people going to and from the eastside), from this program is fairly striking. The RV represented by a counter on the Chief Sealth Trail, which has never been intended as a major transportation route (it’s in a hilly power line corridor). Somewhere along the Lake Washington Loop might have been a good location, and I think something farther inland on the I-90 trail (near 23rd or MLK?) would have given a count more representative of local movement. Or somewhere along the Lake Washington Loop, a longstanding route used for both transportation and recreation, and something like a neighborhood greenway before the term ever existed.

      I think bike routes in some of these parts of town are pretty dispersed, though, so it might be hard to count them generally.

      1. Josh

        I would expect it’s quite a bit harder to use inductive loops to count bikes accurately on a shared roadway than a segregated path.

        In parts of the city where most bike traffic is on the street, I imagine automated counting will need to wait for accurate video identification of bikes vs. scooters/motorcycles.

      2. At one of the SDOT presentations I was at they said the sensors they use for traffic studies can, if they calibrate them carefully, distinguish between cars and bikes at least well enough for the study. I think those are weight-based sensors, but I have to believe cars and bikes present a different enough signature to an inductive loop that they could be counted separately. In light of the calibration problems at the counter on the West Seattle Bridge, though, allowing cyclists to see the count increment as they ride by probably helps things.

        Anyway, SDOT must believe they can distinguish, since there’s one on the Ballard Greenway at 22nd (AFAIK the only part of the Ballard Greenway that’s impassable to cars is eastbound from 15th), and one on the 39th Ave Greenway at 62nd (I ride there pretty often and I know for sure there’s no part of the 39th Ave Greenway that cars can’t use, though it’s a lot easier to maneuver a bike through its various jogs than a car).

      3. Josh

        Pneumatic-tube sensors like they’re using on the greenways can distinguish vehicle size, car tires displace more air than bike tires. But pneumatic tube counters don’t hold up well on busy streets, the tubes wear out or get torn loose.

        They’re fine for temporary traffic surveys on busy streets, but would be an ongoing maintenance and accuracy headache as a permanent installation.

        So, great for a greenway where there’s lots of bike traffic and minimal motor traffic, but not something you’d probably want to install on MLK or 23rd.

      4. I haven’t noticed a tube sensor on the 39th Ave Greenway (I’m usually there at night, but a tube sensor is easy to notice at night)… I’ll look to see if that’s what it is when I’m up there next week I guess.

      5. Andres Salomon

        There are 2 different types of (pneumatic tube) sensors on the 39th Ave NE Greenway; one for bikes (marked with a sign, and spaces close together), and one for cars (spaced farther apart).

        It’s just south of the NE 62nd intersection. I’m actually kind of bummed about the location, as it’s just a few house north of where I live. That means I’m not counted on my frequent trips to the Burke.

  8. Karl

    Do the counters that are tallying pedestrians and bikes both distinguish between the two?

    1. Josh

      “Separate volumes are tallied for each travel mode. ”

      I would assume the IR counter gets both bikes and peds, and the inductive loop gets only wheels.

  9. Lisa

    I would love to see a counter on the Eastside. Sammamish River Trail. Or get some baseline data for the Redmond Connector or Cross Kirkland Corridor. Maybe Overlake or Evergreen Hospital could sponsor. Or company could get logo on the counter if they ponied up a significant portion of the cost.

  10. Dave

    It would be kind of interesting/fun to see what the counts would be if one was placed at Green Lake.

  11. CP

    How long before a Good To Go tolling system is installed? ;)

  12. Gary

    Last night I looked for the counter loops on the I90 trail, but didn’t see them. Anyone know where they put them?

    1. Josh

      On the I-90 trail, they’re in the curved approach to the west end of the bridge, just a bit east of where the Irving Street spur joins the trail — I assume that’s so they get all trail volume, not just those coming through the tunnel.

      1. Gary

        Hmm, still not seeing them. Still in some ways it would have been better to have them on the West side of the tunnel. I have met a number of folks who ride in from Leschi, or Mt Baker area and will miss being counted by these loops.

        Still it’s a start and will give us an idea of the number of Eastsiders crossing I-90 daily.

      2. Gary

        Got it! Will be sure to roll over the center of the diamonds.

  13. I was at the intersection of South Thistle and the Chief Sealth trail today and did not find anything that looks like a counter. could someone take a picture of one? I was looking for SOMETHING, two parallel cables, a sign? nothing!

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Probably looks something like this: https://twitter.com/VeloBusDriver/status/420387029847773184

      If it’s not there yet, it should be coming soon.

  14. […] city’s new bike counters at various points along neighborhood greenways and trails across the city have dropped their first […]

  15. […] back in 2012, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) installed bike counters at a number of locations, including the very popular Fremont Bridge. Since then, the Fremont Bridge bike counter has been […]

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