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Fremont Bridge smashes bike count record (for real this time) + Bike use rises all over town

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Fremont Bridge
"Fremont bike counter ticked over 5100 just as the bridge lowered. Looks like another record!" Photo from Tuesday afternoon by Taylor Kendall via Twitter. Used with permission
“Fremont bike counter ticked over 5100 just as the bridge lowered. Looks like another record!” Photo from Tuesday afternoon by Taylor Kendall via Twitter. Used with permission

The Fremont Bridge bike counter is back up and running after getting a little ahead of itself late last month due to a malfunction.

But even without the erroneous counts, the now-repaired bike counter is showing astounding bike volumes over the classic draw bridge. Five days in recent weeks smashed last year’s record (5,121 on June 4, 2013), including an amazing 6,088 Tuesday.

Bike trips over the bridge in April were 21 percent higher than April 2013, confirming similar growth levels seen in the fall and early winter. If this rate keeps up, 2014 should be on track to break one million bike trips over the Fremont Bridge.

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But Fremont is not the only bike counter experiencing a nice weather/Bike Month spike. The Spokane Street counter on the lower West Seattle Bridge is smashing its own records. However, since that counter was not installed until November 2013 (and didn’t really start making accurate counts until mid-winter or so), we do not yet have year-over-year data to compare the numbers to. But it’s still great to watch the numbers climb:

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Spokane Street

We also have new data to report from the city’s other neighborhood greenway and trail counters spread out around town. These counters do not have visual displays like the Fremont and Spokane Street counters, and the hourly data is only released once a month.

Below is the result of those counts for the first four months of action. Again, we do not have year-over-year data yet, but it’s still interesting:

image(7) image(6) image(5) image(4) image(3) image(2) image(1)As a reminder, here are the locations of the counters:

Permanent Bike Counters MapBelow are the links to the raw hourly data from data.seattle.gov. If you are savvy and looking for a fun data visualization project, this counter data is just screaming for attention:

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20 responses to “Fremont Bridge smashes bike count record (for real this time) + Bike use rises all over town”

  1. Matt

    What do the monthly rollup graphs look like for Fremont?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Ooops, meant to include this link in the post: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikecounter_fremont.htm

      Fremont and Spokane have interactive graphs on the SDOT website that are updated daily.

  2. JB

    Great! Now let’s have some city officials show the vision and backbone to begin a meaningful large scale re-allocation of road space for cycling and walking.

    1. Kirk

      Exactly. Roads need to be prioritized for moving people, not for parking automobiles. Vision and backbone are sorely lacking. Perhaps the last GREAT thing done for biking in this city was creating the Burke Gilman trail, in 1978. Painted bike lanes are ok, but this city needs some GREAT projects for biking and walking.

  3. Matthew

    One thing that impresses me about the data is how much the numbers depend on the weather. I don’t doubt that cycling is increasing (the record counts of the last several days makes that clear), but it would be very difficult to quantify the overall increase in cycling, independent of the weather. January and April showed larger numbers than last year; February and March showed smaller numbers, which correlates very well with the weather.
    Tom, do you have the links for the raw data for the Fremont Bridge and Spokane Street counters? And is there a source for the raw data that is updated more often than once a month? I would like to build a web site that displays the data from all of the counters that doesn’t use Flash (so it will work on iOS devices), but I need a raw data source that is updated more than once a month. I emailed [email protected], but I have not heard back yet.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      data.seattle.gov only updates the data monthly: https://data.seattle.gov/Transportation/Fremont-Bridge-Hourly-Bicycle-Counts-by-Month-Octo/65db-xm6k

      But clearly the data stream exists, since the flash app shows it. Would be awesome if that data also exists for the other counters.

      As for the weather effect, sure there’s an effect there. But the surges are cool because it seems like the bigger the warm weather surge, the higher the new “base” level becomes. That makes sense, since some percentage of people who start biking in the warm months decide to stick with it through the rainy and chilly ones. While February and March saw essentially unchanged counts vs 2013, the other months have seen big increases (in the 20% range). So I’d say that the continued increase isn’t just weather.

      I’d love to see a weather comparison, specifically one analyzing the number of rainy mornings (earlier analysis suggested that a rainy morning greatly reduces biking, but a clear morning with a rainy afternoon does little to the counts). It would be cool if we could confirm/reject that trend and find other ones.

      1. RTK

        My hope is that as people take up fair weather commuting they will then discover that rainy day commuting is not so bad. Vehicle traffic tends to be more messed up on wet day, so there is a reward for riding.

      2. Joseph Singer

        My response to people who ask me “how can you bike in rainy weather” is that you need to think not just about the bike but about your situation. If it’s raining you’re either walking in the rain or waiting in the rain (for a bus.) As long as you dress properly it really shouldn’t make a difference.

      3. I have a theory (based on observation mostly of myself) that people inclined to commute by bike have some rough threshold of adversity they’re willing to accept before they give up on it for the day. Adverse conditions might include long distance, heavy luggage, tough hills, wet roads, falling rain, cold, heat, darkness, rough roads, stressful traffic… add together enough of these things and eventually it gets over the threshold and I won’t ride.

        So for my normal work commute (very short), light shopping, and dentist appointments, nothing short of a hurricane will stop me from riding. For my once-a-week long commute, for hauling around cat food/litter, or for going to downtown Seattle (or Bellevue or SODO) where every route includes some traffic, I’m much more sensitive to weather and light conditions. For a short commute in the rain I throw on a hoodie and scoot out the door. For a long commute in the rain I have to plan to deal with wet clothes and shoes (of course, for many kinds of appointments and errands there really isn’t a way to deal with these things).

        If other people are like me, then building a really connected network of low-stress, flat-as-possible bike facilities and encouraging development patterns that allow for short daily trips should make those commute numbers more resilient to bad weather.

  4. Andres Salomon

    Thanks for the visualizations, Tom. February was a much rainier/crappier month than January, and it shows in the counter data. It’s interesting to see which counters buck that trend. My guess would be that people are still discovering those greenways (in Ballard and Delridge), perhaps?

    Also, seeing some of the counters break 50k, 100k numbers is pretty awesome.

  5. Joseph Singer

    Why are there never any stats for the Broadway bikeway? There’s most certainly a counter that’s been there for several months.

    1. Richard

      Where is it? I ride it all the time and I’ve completely overlooked it.
      Past couple months is probably pretty abysmal; half the track closed and north end all jacked up made it kindof a road to nowhere, coupled with pretty wet march-april… I’d love to watch the data soar now that the whole thing is open and we’re into some great weather :) I saw more people on it last night at around 8:30 than I’ve ever seen before.

      1. Joseph Singer

        Just north of East Union Street on the bikeway. I assume this is meant to count bikes and not vehicles since there’s a “counter” with two rubber strips in the bikeway. This one does not have a visual display but is just like other counters you’ll see on the street to count motor vehicle traffic. May not be the same thing. Still and all I’d like to know the stats.

  6. The Spokane St bridge counter was actually installed in June 2013 and took some months to get sensors and counting squared away. Record count until this April was 1,286 on July 23, 2013, broken three days in a row in April and again yesterday at 1,847. That’s 44% over last year’s mid summer high!

    This past week the SDOT graphs dropped off the months from June to November 2013, but we posted a screenshot on FB on May 1 that shows the count back to last June.


  7. Frank

    Weather at 8 am is deciding factor in many who cycle.
    Is it raining, blizzard, sunny, warm enough when they look out?
    Take car?, or ride bike this morning?

    So a chart with the 8 am weather might see some correlation (not causation)

    But check the NOAA weather norms. Warming trends are creating more rain in the region discouraging most would be cyclists.
    KOMO provides a range of links komonews.com/weather/faq/4310827.html
    Here’s 64 years of daily data normalized: wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliRECt.pl?waseat
    The office of the Washington State Climatologist: climate.washington.edu/climate.html
    Remember, precipitation below 34 degrees F is usually snow.

    And even then, cycling is less than 4% (1 in 25) of all commuting trips. This is a male, middle class and elitist group of people.
    Pages 7-8 of census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-15.pdf might be interesting.
    They are not general Seattle, as are chess players, nor San Francisco 49ers supporters, nor non-lutefisk eaters.

    1. Merlin

      Frank, I suggest you take a look at Rebecca Roush’s Seattle Bicyclist Portraits blog. These are people she sees on bikes as she rides around; she asks permission, then takes a portrait. http://bicyclistportraits.blogspot.com/ (if you scroll almost all the way to the bottom, you’ll find ME there too…hint: I’m not male)

    2. Gary

      Re: 8am weather.
      I think it actually depends on the weather an hour earlier and the forecast. I have to make a decision about an hour before I leave whether this is a bike ride day or not. Otherwise I’ll miss the bus that gets me to work on time. ie shower now or at work, pack clothes or wear them etc.

      On the weather, if you look at the graphs there was a general trend upward in March over Feburary. Yet March was 3x more rain than a usual year and as I recall Feburary was not that bad. I think it’s the light that makes it easier to ride. Riding in the dark on the way home requries excellent lights, not the cheap versions. Also it’s colder, so you need better gloves and a better coat (at least for the first few miles.) So like was pointed out by Al, warm gear ups the difficutlty one notch. Although again March wasn’t warm.

      That only 4% ride regularly, speaks loudly toward two things, one that it’s still hard to do, and that it’s getting easier because that number is up over the last two decades.

      As for being elitist yep, it’s a group of people for whom daily exercise is more important than creature comfort.

  8. […] Ride the bikes: Washington, D.C. made a trial run of zebra bollards along Pennsylvania Avenue to discourage U-turns into the center-running cycletrack, and it appears to have worked. Now the District’s Department of Transportation is looking at how to improve the pilot project effort. New work on the Burke-Gilman Trail is about to begin with detours in place. Meanwhile, the University of Washington has submitted their TIGER grant application to the Feds for funding the trail’s improvements. You can help support the application online! And, walking and biking took a big jump year-over-year in Seattle (2011-2012), 18% just for walking! Transit usage is up 40% since 2004. No surprise here since we’re still breaking records! […]

  9. […] Fremont Bridge smashes its previous bike count record, topping out at over 6,000 bikes a […]

  10. […] was 10:40 by the time we crossed the Fremont Bridge and despite recent record bike counts, we were only numbers 1008 and 1009 […]

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