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Biking boom: Fremont Bridge biking is on track to reach 1 million 2019 trips a whole month early


Table of percent change in monthly counts 2018 to 2019. January: 24.4. February: -28.8, March: 10.6, April: 10, May: -0.53, June: 17.1, July: 7.57, August: 27.4, September: 16.6.When the Fremont Bridge bike counter started ticking away in 2012, the big question was: How many years before it measures 1 million trips in a calendar year? It barely hit 1 million in 2014, though that year was a bit anomalous. It narrowly missed 1 million 2015 though 2017 before a big biking surge in 2018 hit the mark around Thanksgiving, itself an incredible feat.

This year, Seattle is on pace to hit 1 million trips before Halloween. With 958,572 trips measured as of October 6 and a weekly pace of around 25,000 we should be about a week and a half away (shorter with great weather, a bit longer if there is sustained heavy rain). But it is almost certain that the Fremont Bridge will reach 1 million before Halloween, a month earlier than the record set last year.

Dockless bike share services, which launched in 2017 and dramatically grew in 2018, are the most obvious force behind the boom in recent years. But the smoke choking the city last summer diminished the counts, as is clear in the 27% increase in August 2019 compared to August 2018.

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But smoke is not the whole story. Neither is bike share. Monthly totals have seen significant year-over-year increases in 7 of 9 months so far (only volatile, very weather-dependent February saw a significant decrease). Meanwhile, bike share use is largely the same as in 2018, according to a recent city report. So it seems that in 2019, more people are riding their own bikes more often. Could the clear rise in e-bikes be part of the equation here? Did using bike share convince more people to buy their own bikes? There’s a lot worth exploring here.

Of course, the Fremont Bridge does not measure biking citywide, but so many northend and regional bike routes funnel to this one crossing that it is the city’s most consistent barometer of biking trends. The recently-released Census survey showed Seattle’s 2018 bike commute rate rebounding from low 2017 results, though it will be another year before 2019 results are released.

But for now, perhaps we need to be planning a celebration next weekend or so. Because it has taken a lot of work to reach this new high water mark. 1 million bike trips across a single bridge in just 10 months, that’s pretty incredible.

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17 responses to “Biking boom: Fremont Bridge biking is on track to reach 1 million 2019 trips a whole month early”

  1. The last two times I rode across the Fremont Bridge (including yesterday) the ticker wasn’t operating. Any idea why?

    1. It looks like it was vandalized. The top portion of the counter has been smashed and the glass is broken. I’m not sure Sdot is even aware of the situation. Is there any way to report these types of things?

      1. JB

        Ten bucks says the perp was Jenny Durkan :-p

      2. In general you can report stuff through the city’s website — down at the bottom of the main seattle.gov page there’s a “Report a Problem” button that pops sends you through a series of forms…

        They also have a “Find-it/fix-it” mobile app but I’ve never tried that.

        The counter does appear to be uploading despite the damage.

      3. Ballard Biker

        I’ve found the Find It, Fix It app to be the most successful at not only getting a response from the City, but getting the problem fixed. It’s pretty intuitive in reporting problems; you can also track the progress of your report as it gets filed to the appropriate departments.

        Most issues like this never get reported to the City due to the Bystander Effect. I highly recommend everybody get it on their phones and report problems. It’s great for potholes too!

    2. Cool. I reported it. Was still inoperable yesterday afternoon.

    3. I just heard back from SDOT with this explanation and update:

      “Thank you for reporting this to us, our signals team went out and found that the screen went dark do [sic] to damage and vandalism, there was no damage to the counting system so no bike counts were lost. We have also repaired the counter display.

      Best regards,
      SDOT Customer Care”

  2. Why would people be riding their bikes more often? I believe the big factors behind bike transportation numbers are: first, land use; second, infrastructure; third, weather. All these factors have been in Fremont’s favor lately. Growth in homes, jobs, and destinations within easy rides of the bridge. Major improvements to bike routes that feed the bridge and connect it to downtown while routes doing the same for many other parts of the city remain incomplete or had major construction through 2019. Then obviously there’s the weather, which has been really nice this year!

    If we want bike counts to keep increasing here, and to do so across the city more widely, we have to improve land-use and infrastructure city-wide. Can people that might want to bike places afford to live close enough? Is the bike network sufficient to get them there? Even in the vicinity of the Fremont Bridge, where cycling numbers are historically high, there’s lots of work to do on both fronts; in other parts of the city there’s a lot more.

    1. The bike counter seems to match my anecdotal observations that biking is way up this year. Of course, my commute from Ballard has had protected bike infrastructure from the outskirts of Ballard to north SLU for a few years now, with the City adding protected connections into downtown via 9th to 7th/8th and Bell, which then connects to 2nd, so that helps immensely.

      Again anecdotally, it seems like the #1 obstacle to bikers is rain. Checking out the bike counter data from July 9 to July 11 shows close to a 40% reduction in cyclists due to rain on July 10, which was an abnormally rainy summer day. Adding protected infrastructure increases the number of cyclists and sooner or later they start to realize that biking in the rain isn’t that bad.

  3. Sal

    The number of construction projects causing traffic to be congested probably helped in getting people onto bikes.

  4. […] Seattle Bike Blog has a post today about the awesome increases at the Fremont Bridge. Counts from West Seattle confirm the trend. […]

  5. westseattlebikeconnections

    Counts from the Spokane Street Bridge confirm the trend. Up every year since the counter was installed. 2019 = 2018 + 5.8% through September each year. Data graph and more at https://westseattlebikeconnections.org/2019/10/08/low-bridge-counts-high/

    1. westseattlebikeconnections

      Oops. Not up every year at Spokane St Bridge. 2017 was down ~7.4%.

  6. Dave R

    Too bad the Second avenue counter stopped at the end of May 2019. Counts are up 24% in the first 5 months of 2019 compared to 2018 (141,130 vs 113,493) but that can be attributed largely to the bike lane extension.

  7. Adam

    I think it has to be e-bikes, they really seem to be exploding in popularity, and I think they are making bicycle transportation more accessible and getting people to ride that would never have considered it before.

  8. […] As we reported previously, 2019 bike trips across the Fremont Bridge are set to break one million within a week, likely this weekend or early next week. […]

  9. […] to go out and get their own bikes. As we reported previously, bike counts on the Fremont Bridge have continued climbing sharply even as the number of bike share trips plateaued likely due to a reduction in bike fleet size and […]

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