25% jump in the bicycling rate on Market Street!

Bike counter on Market Street on a Sunday afternoon.

Bike counter on Market Street on a Sunday afternoon.

SF’s very own bicycle counter Eco Counter was unveiled on Bike to Work Day which was May 9th of this year. It was a perfect day to celebrate biking to work with the counter running.

For those of you who don’t know what’s the point of having a bike counter- well, it’s the same thing as doing a survey/poll. After data collection, Market Street may be justified in getting more bike infrastructure investment (crossing fingers) and a traffic mobility reassessment. Plus, it’s cool to see the numbers increase in real-time for all those bicycle boosters and data geeks out there.

Location of the bike counter. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Location of the bike counter. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The bicycle counter is located on the south side of Market St. between 9th and 10th Sts. to count bicyclists heading eastbound. Market Street has the highest amount of bicycle traffic in San Francisco, so it’s a no brainer to have it there.

Let’s take a look at the historical data on bicycling in SF and then at the numbers coming from the counter:

SF boasted an increase of 71% in bicyclist counts between 2006 and 2010. Unfortunately, in the last 5 years SF saw the same rate in bicycle theft. These two data sets sort of correlate with each other.

Additionally, bicycle trips account for 3.5% of all trips in 2010, an increase from 2% in the year 2000. But have these numbers gone up since 2010? I am still waiting and eager to see data showing that jump because everywhere I ride, I see a lot more bicyclists.

But it’s also possible that the percentage of trips made by bicycle remained the same even as the number of bicycle trips went up, because it also seems like there has been a large uptick in car trips (and congestion) which many have observed in the city. So after accounting for that, the percentage of bike trips may sadly still remain at 3.5%.

Now let’s take a look at the numbers coming from the bike counter:

Data from bike counter for since May 9. Image courtesy of SFMTA.

Data collected from bike counter since May 9. Image courtesy of SFMTA.

First, the counter only collects data on Market St. and possibly has some glitches. It’s been reported that not every bicyclist gets counted, that vehicles are sometimes counted, and that there’s a 5% error rate (source).

Nevertheless, according to the bike counter posted on the SFMTA’s website, the number of bicyclists that were registered has jumped from an average of 2,032 per day in May to 2,715 in August (excluding outliers) within 4 months. Although the number of daily riders is small, that’s a 25% increase! In addition, the August weekday count of 3,132 almost tied with Bike to Work Day’s count of 3,231 which is incredible! Many people that came out to ride for BTWD are not regular bicycle commuters and perhaps now, these occasional riders have become regulars!

The increase could have also been due to the warmer months. But I doubt it has much to do with that because the climate in SF is pretty mild all year round, and it’s been especially warm throughout this year so far.

You’ll notice that there is no data for the months of June and July. It’s possible that when the counter was shut down for the Market St. repaving back in June, the counter was also re-calibrated and fine-tuned (we don’t know for sure) affecting the counts for May. So the count could have already been at the same level as in August and there might not have been an actual increase.

It’s too bad that during the months of June and July, there was no data input. If it wasn’t turned off for the re-pavement, it would have told us more about the change. For example, a slow increase would confirm the 25% increase from May to August.

If there really was an increase, it would be great to see it continue in this upward trend. Maybe this road will soon eventually outdo Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge as the busiest bicycle corridor in the nation.

One of nine bike share stations on Market St next to bike counter.

One of nine bike share stations on Market St. next to the bike counter. Bay Area Bike Share will launch on Thursday, 8/29.

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2 comments

  1. Mark Dreger

    I think most of the rise from June to August comes from the realignment of the bike lane post-repaving. Before many people (esp during rush hour) rode in the mixed traffic lane; now that the bike lane jogs out, the counter registers more (but still not all) people on bikes. The Fell Street counter shows a good rise year-over-year. We need a few more months to draw conclusions here, though BABS will almost certainly help.

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