Friday, August 31, 2012

Bike Counters needed

Boston Bikes is looking for volunteers to count bikes during rush hours this September.
Bike counts are very important because it's easy for transportation engineers to count cars, and then focus on designing for the car traffic that they have numbers on.  It's harder to count bikes, because it requires a real life person, not just a pneumatic tube*,  and if that data doesn't exist, it's easier for the planners to imagine that bikes aren't a big part of traffic.  How many times have you seen a stupid comment from a driver about "I never see any bikes in the new bike lanes" in the comments section of an article?  We need data to be able to counter that kind of windshield blindness.

One recent result of a bike count was that the city was able to make the case for removing parking and adding bikes lanes on Mass Ave after counts indicated that bikes made up 10-15% of traffic on Mass Ave during rush hour.

Signup via Survey monkey with times and places that would work for you- they're focusing on 7-9AM and 4-7PM.   More information, and the link to the signup here.

*It is possible to buy specialized pneumatic tubes that are calibrated to measure bikes passing over them, but most cities/ states don't bother to buy them, and I don't believe that it's possible to calibrate a tube to sense both bikes and cars- the pressure of a 200lb bike vs a 5,000 lb truck is too different.


  1. Manual bike counting is important, but we need to do better. Modern cameras and software can count bikes 24/7/365 and even record where they ride within the transportation corridor. Bike use is more dependent on weather, daylight hours, purpose and many other factors than is auto use. Infrastructure is easy to say, but the best infrastructure for summer tourists is quite different than that needed for car-free year-round operation, as is the priority when it comes to things like clearing snow. Ultimately, the traffic engineers need to understand THAT every bit as much as they need to understand that a 10-15% mode share may not seem like a lot until you imagine what it would take if all those were cars.

  2. Besides, a camera can count bikes, pedestrians, cars, and 18 wheelers all at the same time. And big dogs to boot!

  3. I just signed up for several afternoons.
    I'm especially interested in seeing bike counts on Mass Ave in Boston. At the end of the year it will be great to compare both ridership and crash data with and without bike lanes. Hopefully, it will be really show what so many of us believe: that bike infrastructure increases both ridership and safety.


  4. Steve--Who is selling bike-recognition-and-counting software?

  5. I do not know of a fully vetted system, but google "camera counting system bicycle" to see how close the technology is today. Unlike volunteers, the camera never sleeps. Best, of course is both approaches. Volunteers can see what the cameras didn't anticipate.