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Less guesswork: Seattle getting second electronic bicycle counter


Five years ago, Seattle adopted a Bicycle Master Plan. It aims to triple the amount of bicycling in Seattle by the year 2017. But until just a few months ago, there was no way to accurately count cyclists. That’s changing.

In October last year, Seattle got its first electronic bike counter on the Fremont Bridge. It’s about seven and a half feet tall and stands like a totem pole, counting bikes and displaying their numbers as they cross. You can visit a city web site to see the data it's collected so far. The Fremont Bridge is one of the busiest spots in the city for cycling.

‘We’re getting 2-thousand riders on weekdays still, during the last couple of weeks. So even during bad weather, lots of people out on their bikes,” says Chuck Ayers, the executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club.

The club paid for the electronic counter with a private grant from the Mark and Susan Torrance Foundation.  And this spring they’re putting in another electronic counter, this time in South Seattle.

They chose the Spokane street bridge near the Alki Trail strategically. Ayers says it gets a fair number of bike commuters heading into downtown from West Seattle now. But that number is expected to grow once the Alaskan way Viaduct rebuild and tunnel are in place, along with big improvements to bike lanes. So they’ll get a baseline, starting this spring.

“And we’ll get a chance to see what that type of infrastructure build out actually does for encouraging people to get on their bikes and ride.,” Ayers says.

The city of Seattle says they’re grateful for the gifts, because it allows transportation planners to make data-driven decisions about where to put protected bike lanes, for example. Till now, they’ve had to rely mostly on spot counts. Now that they’re getting round the clock data, they can more accurately calculate how many people are in fact deterred by rain.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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