Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making Bikes Count Part 2 - A History Of Bicycle Counts

If You Don't Count Bikes Then Bikes Don't Count. But who will do the counting?

The Bicycle Coalition began to fill the bike count void in 1990 prior to opening of the Walnut St Bridge. Volunteers took counts on the bridges that cross the Schuylkill River - South, Market, JFK, Chestnut and Walnut. The counts were simple Bicycle and Pedestrian user counts that could be accomplished with a hand held counter. No reports were ever generated from the data but they do serve as a baseline for our modern counts.

In 1999 for the Bicycle Network project the RBA Group produced a report that conducted 3 hour counts at 6 locations throughout the city that took place in April 1998. The purpose was to get a before bike lanes count with the hopes that the city would conduct after counts. The 1990 and 1998 counts provided a reference for our later counts and enable us to observe the trend in bicycling since then.

In early September 2001 Cartographer Steve Spindler pulled out his new digital camera and took date-time stamped photos of cyclists at 18th and JFK for 90 minutes. Not only was he able to count bikes but also he counted gender and how many cyclists were wearing helmets. It provided a start point for our bike count methodology as shown in the form below.

Counts are done over 90 minute periods and broken down into 15 minute intervals. At each intersection we do two AM counts (7:30 - 9:00) and two PM counts (4:30 - 6:00). Usually in dry weather for control purposes. We only count people riding bikes and they are counted as they approach the intersection. So a bicyclist riding on Broad St and then turning onto Chestnut is counted as a bicyclist on Broad St.

Between 2001 and 2004 we conducted counts at random intersections throughout Center City. Finally in 2005 Central Philadelphia TMA contracted with the BCGP to count bicycles at 18 locations for their annual report, a task that we repeated in 2006. The summaries from those reports suggested that since 1990 bicycling was increasing at a rate of about 6% a year. By 2008 we collected enough data to release our first comprehensive bike count analysis - "Double Dutch - Bicycling Jumps in Philadelphia" which concluded that bicycling increased 104% from 2005 to 2008.

From April 26th to April 30th we will be taking our first 2010 bicycle counts for the Spring if you are interested in helping us making bike counts send an email to