First month of neighborhood greenway, trail use data is now in

The city’s new bike counters at various points along neighborhood greenways and trails across the city have dropped their first sets of data, and the numbers are interesting.

Notably, as NE Seattle Greenways pointed out, the Ballard neighborhood greenway on NW 58th is already seeing bike count number around 25 percent as high as those on the Fremont Bridge.

Below are the graphs for the seven newest counters for the month of January. The West Seattle and Fremont Bridges have interactive graphs online.

chart_1-10 chart_1-17 chart_1-16 chart_1-15 chart_1-14 chart_1-13 chart_1-11Map of counter locations:

Permanent Bike Counters MapYou can find the raw data sets at

About Tom Fucoloro

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23 Responses to First month of neighborhood greenway, trail use data is now in

  1. Josh says:

    Is Seattle-to-Bellevue north, or south, on the I-90 Trail?

    • Gary says:

      Yep, those data labels are horked…

      Also I notice that when I ride to the West it’s easy to hit the center of the diamond, and get counted and when I ride East I tend to cut to the inside of the turn and either ride over the West bound loop, or ride right over the center where the loops cross and I suspect not get counted. They weren’t really well placed for bicycles. And in the rain/dark it’s hard to ride the loop correctly.

      • Josh says:

        Is the direction detection for bicycles really driven by which loop you hit? And is the center of the trail, between the two diamonds, a dead spot? Anyone have technical specs for these counters, or know who to ask at SDOT?

        If so, that would certainly explain the imbalance, and also call the totals into question.

        After reading this last night, I stopped to watch riders crossing the counter this morning. Westbound cyclists, climbing slowly up from the bridge, mostly do appear to hit the loop on the north side of the trail.

        Eastbound cyclists, descending through an S-curve with good sight lines, tend to ride the center of the trail unless they can see a cyclist coming the other way.

        So, if “north” really means westbound cyclists, and “south” is eastbound cyclists, the imbalance would make sense if the loop layout systematically under-counts eastbound cyclists.

        After watching for a while from the overlook, I headed east myself. With a pedestrian on the south edge of the trail, I rode over the counter loop on the north side of the trail… will I count for two westbound trips and no eastbound trip today?

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        The “north” and “south” labels were not mine, they come from the city’s data. I’ll ask for clarification.

        Another things to consider (if the loops are working correctly) is that maybe recreation riders are more likely to do a half-loop around the lake that starts by going the long way, then ends by cutting back over the bridge. That’s the way I’ve always done it, anyway.

      • Gary says:

        I figure if that if the counts are off by a small number each way, it would average out over time, the going around a pedsestrian problem etc.

        But as Josh says, its easier to take the inside of that corner going Eastbound especially in the dark and wet where you can see oncoming cyclists via their lights and expect no pedestrains due to the inclemate weather.

        On triggering, My informal testing of loops at signals is that just being over the wire is enough to trigger. But since they wanted directional information, my guess is that they have two sets of loops and one overlays the other. That way going one direction you trigger both, and the other, you only trigger one. Thus a hit at the exact middle is the Eastbound loop as that’s the only place the wire is.

      • Josh says:

        Looking at the skew, it’s there during weekday commute hours, too, so I don’t think it’s just rec riders.

        Lots of people commute “north” in the morning but don’t go back “south” in the evening. Fewer people ride “south” in the morning than go home “north” in the evening.

        As for the direction labels from SDOT, I put in a question on the site when the data went live, haven’t heard anything back yet.

        Looking at where the counter sits in the curve, I’m guessing “south” means “east” — the actual alignment of the trail at that spot is almost SE, certainly more S than N, but my first reaction on hearing 5,000+ riders went north was to look over the edge of the bridge for where they landed.

  2. Gary says:

    Looks like about 100+ hard core bicycle commuters daily cross I-90 (50+ each way) Which jibes with my informal count of the number of bicycles I see coming at me during my commute extrapolated over the 3 hr peak.

    I can’t seem to find the City of Seattle Quarterly counts for this location. Their map says they have it, but the spread sheet I downloaded didn’t list any streets near where the dot on the map is… unless I can’t read,

    I was looking to see what the 2011 and 2012 counts were on a daily basis because my theory is they were undercounting bicycles. And now with the loops we’ll get a more “true” usage of those bike lanes.

    • Josh says:

      Busiest bicycle hour in January, 11AM on the 25th, a Saturday with good weather – 154 riders in one hour. Total bike count for that day, 967.

      Picking a random weekday, 276 total riders on Thursday, 1/30, a warmish day with no rain.

      Wednesday, 1/29 had 3/4″ of rain, 212 riders despite the weather.

      Regardless of the directional skew, it will be interesting to watch the numbers develop as the weather gets friendlier.

  3. Tan says:

    It’s weird that southbound riders are nearly triple that of northbound riders on the 26th Ave. Greenway. Is someone tap dancing on the sensors?

  4. Gary says:

    The 26th Ave Greenway number look “off”. I seriously doubt that there are 3x more people going one direction than the other. Unless people are avoiding a big hill, or traffic that only goes one way. More likely the loop is missing people.

    • Josh says:

      If I remember correctly, the greenway counters aren’t loops, they’re pneumatic tube counters, those little rubber hoses that run across the road.

      Might be worth watching riders come through at one of the busier hours and see if they’re using the lane position the tube layout expects — are northbound riders using the southbound side of the street?

      Are people bypassing the counters entirely going north, maybe riding on the sidewalk?

    • Steve Campbell says:

      People like West Seattle so much that once they ride there, they never want to leave.

      • Jayne says:

        More likely than that, they’re all getting their bikes stolen out from under them and having to take the bus back.

    • Jake says:

      I noticed that too. I have two speculative theories:

      1) Northbound cyclists on Delridge don’t feel like crossing Delridge twice on the way to the bridge, so simply ride along Delridge northbound, but take the greenway on their way home since it’s on the right side of the street.

      2) Folks from High Point/Morgan area don’t like riding down the steep hill, so they take other routes northbound to the bridge, but on the way home they take 26th and walk their bikes up snake hill.

      I’d lean toward the first over the second, but again, this is entirely speculation.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Love these theories! I’ve been thinking about this since I made the graph, since it seemed off. Basically, an average of 100 people every day cross south, but not north. I have two theories to add:

        1: Biking down Avalon is much more appealing than biking up Avalon (people are willing to go the long way to avoid it).

        2: The counter is counting some northbound trips as southbound.

      • Gary says:

        Maybe they ride over to the Ferry to Vashson and take the foot ferry back to downtown Seattle?

  5. Gary says:

    The other thing this data points out is that the Chief Sealth trail is unconnected to anywhere anyone wants to go, so is underutilized. It means that we spent a bunch of money on the trail but didn’t think it through. I suspect that in the summer it’s used for recreation by locals.

    And that if we made greenways that connected up to it, we would see a lot more use.

    • Al Dimond says:

      The Chief Sealth trail is in a power line corridor. Unlike rail and road corridors, it’s just a straight shot through a hilly area without any regrading. The result isn’t as crazy as, say, the Tolt Pipeline Trail, but that’s basically the process. The trail curves around a lot to find reasonable grades within the corridor but there’s only so much that can be done.

      I don’t know how much money was spent on it, but I don’t think it was ever intended as a major transportation route. When I’ve been on it I’ve seen kids playing and, one time, a lot of older people with walkers going for walks. They must have been pretty tough, to handle the rolling hills with a walker. For transportation, several stretches of the trail patch up gaps in the local street network, and it provides some decent arterial crossings, but I think the benefit has been opening up the power line corridor as a big long park more than anything else.

      • Josh says:

        You’re right on the origins and limitations of a utility corridor trail, but for those who prefer an off-road ride, it shouldn’t be hard to stub out from the trail itself to more local streets.

        There are plenty of informal connections — you can see many dirt tracks leading to adjoining road ends. But a dirt track that attracts kids in the summer isn’t as welcoming to commuters in the winter, people who don’t want to show up to work with mud up their backs, or to walkers, wheelchairs, baby strollers, etc.

        Other missing connections seem obvious — how can a bike trail roll right past an elementary school parking lot without a stub out for kids riding to and from school?

        The trail comes within 100 feet of the parking lot for the New Holly Library, why isn’t that an official, paved connection instead of a track through the dirt? And why wouldn’t that paved connection continue east to S. Holly Park Dr.?

        It’s a success as a park, but satellite view makes some of the missing connections pretty obvious if there’s money for a little pavement.

      • Gary says:

        There is a design theory that you don’t pave the connections until their is enough traffic to make a path in the dirt.

        I just figured that if they bothered to put counters in they must expect someone to be using it.

  6. Karl says:

    I wish the 1st Avenue South bridge had a counter, I take that bridge at least half the time instead of the West Seattle low bridge.

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