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2018’s one millionth Fremont Bridge bike trip is about to cross, smashing the record

Whoever bikes across the Fremont Bridge as number 1,582 today will tip the 2018 bike counter into seven digits, clobbering all previous records by a wide margin.

Bike trips across the iconic bridge, which forms a pinch point for many north and northwest Seattle regional bike routes, have been smashing monthly bike records ever since bike share companies launched in summer 2017. But the counts really started taking off in 2018, when the number of bikes in service ramped up to nearly 10,000 across Lime, Spin and ofo. And the biggest increases were in winter and spring, with the first five months of the year each increasing by an astounding 17 to 32 percent (though winter 2017 was extremely rainy).

Good work, everyone! Somebody should probably throw a party, because it feels like it has been too long since we had a good bike celebration in this town. One million bike trips across a single bridge is an awesome accomplishment, and we still have all of December to run up the score. You all contributed to this one bike ride at a time.


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Of course, there is still a lot of work to do. The city needs to get back on track because 2018 successes came from 2017 work. And due in large part to a leadership vacuum that Mayor Jenny Durkan has created at SDOT, Seattle has done very little in 2018 to ensure an equally exciting 2019. 

Spin and ofo left town in July as the 2017 bike share pilot ended, and Seattle then delayed its rollout of the new bike share permit. Perhaps partly due to this permit delay (though also due to wildfire smoke), August and September were the only months that did not see significant growth over 2017.

Bike share works. And especially as downtown Seattle heads into a tough couple years where we really need a lot more people to find alternatives to driving, the city should be doing everything it can to encourage and grow these systems.

It’s very disappointing to see that Seattle leaders already squandered half the summer by delaying the new permit rollout until November. Though Mayor Jenny Durkan has been talking a lot about the coming traffic crunch recently, she has not prioritized bike share expansion or experimentation with non-bike options like scooters. We can see bike share working in these bike counts, so why is the mayor not working to get all the non-car trips we can out of these services? It’s not about money because these companies pay their own way.

It feels like the mayor is on the verge of clutching defeat from the jaws of victory. Bike share and downtown bike lanes were all set to grow together, allowing more people to make more trips comfortably by bike. This combo is the magic sauce for increasing bike trips. But Mayor Durkan stepped in and delayed both of these just when we need them most.

But now the bike share permit is out, and JUMP has joined Lime with Lyft Bikes also set to join at some point. And the City Council has all but directed SDOT to build a serious number of downtown bike lanes by the end of next year in an effort to catch up with the backlog created by inaction and indecision on the mayor’s part this year (SDOT still does not have a permanent Director one year after Scott Kubly left). With strong leadership, 2019 could be an amazing year for biking in Seattle, and the bike trip counts will continue upward.


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23 responses to “2018’s one millionth Fremont Bridge bike trip is about to cross, smashing the record”

  1. Clicky Freewheel

    Resident from Portland here. What’s it like to have a working bike counter? Our counter on the Hawthorne Bridge has been broken for two years.

    1. Mike S

      The totem on the Hawthorne is broken, but the counter still works. You can view the data here: http://portland-hawthorne-bridge.visio-tools.com/

  2. Matt

    How do the 2018 numbers compare to the years before 2017?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      That’s all in the bar graph.

  3. GlenBikes

    Do we know (or have theories) for why 2015 was an upward blip for 2014 and then it fell again? It looks like most months in 2014 saw a fairly significant jump in YOY ridership.

    1. asdf2

      I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point a few years ago, there was construction on the Fremont bridge that left only one sidewalk open at a time. That probably put a dent in that year’s bike numbers.

      1. Lisa

        oh yeah, I think that was when they were painting it? 2014 maybe? I remember consistently taking the bridge lane when they had the sidewalk closed, I think a lot of other people did that too. The counter only catches you on the sidewalk.

    2. Fish

      If I remember correctly, it barely rained the winter 2015. Definitely a correlation between moderate winter weather and bike ridership.

  4. bill

    Well dang, if I’d known this I would have ridden laps on the bridge!

    In other news the West Seattle Bridge counter is working again. At least I got to be #36 today.

  5. AP

    I think the 520 bridge is approaching 310K. I took a selfie a couple weeks back just over 300K. The numbers are way lower: 520 is a bigger commitment than the Fremont Bridge. But it’s great news all around!

    1. AP

      It’s actually just over 305K.

  6. Fremont bridge per year previous peak was 2014. Steady modest declines through 2017:
    2013: 928,515
    2014: 1,005,883
    2015; 986,407
    2016: 982,234
    2017: 963,483
    Good to see it increasing. Westlake route could be a factor, too. Spokane St Bridge had modest steady gains through 2016, then a decline in 2017, and is increasing in 2018. But copper wire thieves just shut it down, along with lights, so it’s been off line since 11/24.

    What’s apparent from the monthly graphs is that weather and darkness are the biggest factor by far in how many people are riding. Outweighs infrastructure, bike share, gas prices, jobs, anything else combined. This seems crazy in our mild, maritime climate.

    1. Weather is really important, but… on 2nd Avenue, October 2018 had a higher count than July 2017. Not so at the other counters, which have roughly the same weather and darkness. That’s the extension of the 2nd Ave Cycletrack (mostly northwards), Pike/Pine, 7th Avenue, maybe a bit from 9th Ave N and Dexter construction calming down, and probably some bikeshare-related growth.

      It’s a bit hard to separate all these things, the timing means the factors all confound eachother. Meanwhile job and housing growth has sadly been offset by longer commute distances, probably due largely to increased housing cost.

      Anyway, though some things have changed in the last 5 years, the overall layout of jobs and housing and the general shape and quality of the bike network have remained pretty similar. So to find the effect of job distribution and infrastructure, better to look at differences across locations rather than over time. And there are big differences across locations! Not just in Seattle but around the world! We just haven’t made big enough changes, in the last 5 years, to move the needle on the same magnitude as the weather.

      1. Agreed, on all counts. 2nd Ave is too new for real trend lines, but has had huge month over month jumps in it’s first 1-1/2 years. Discovering it, extending it, and bikeshare must be big factors. And, the crash rate for all types of crashes on 2nd is way down, despite what the nay-sayers feared.

    2. It looks like they got the Spokane Street counter back on (at least online)… I hope they got the lights on, too.

      1. bill

        I believe the wiring for the lights was stolen (again).

  7. 47hasbegun

    I get the feeling that e-bikes might’ve gotten more people riding on their commute or when running errands. I’ve seen more bikes in general since they started gaining popularity.

  8. Dave

    The dry November this year has definitely helped as well. There were more bike riders later in the year. The numbers have definitely dropped off in the last week as the weather has gotten back to normal.

    I thought bike share had driven up numbers overall but it’s not easy to see this in the data.

  9. Jack

    The bike counter is on the west side of the bridge only. It doesn’t count all the bike crossings on the east side of the bridge. Isn’t the fact that the east side of the bridge is the (two way) bike travel late to get to the relatively newly opened protected bike lane along Lake Union a big factor in the accuracy of any trend prediction (and total counts)?

    1. Duncan Watson

      I know that my commute route exclusively uses the east side of the bridge

    2. There’s a detector loop on the east side, too. They’re both hooked up to the same counter.

    3. Tom Fucoloro

      Al is right. This is a common misconception. The display is only on the west side, but you will notice little diamond-shaped wire detectors in the sidewalk on both sides. Look for them next time near the north side of the bridge.

  10. Jack

    Good to know, thanks Al!

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