Blog › Bike counts: can they slim your street?


Bike counts: can they slim your street?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/04/10 @ 9:00am  |  Posted in Biking, Vibrant cities

We've come to expect our streets filled with cars, which leaves little room to imagine how they would look otherwise. An image used by the planning department in Muenster, Germany, compares the space required in a city to move the same amount of people by car, bike, bus and subway. It's more than a parlor trick for urban planners. Beyond the obvious-that bikes demand far less space-it demonstrates how our mental picture of streets is always clouded by the bulkiness of cars. The image helps remind us that a city with fewer cars will create more room for amenities like parks and greenspace and bike lanes.

We sometimes hear comments like 'it looks like nobody is using the Euclid Avenue bike lanes." The image may help explain the phenomenon that even as the numbers of cyclists using a bike lane increases, it takes exponential growth to note an increase-bikes just take up less space.


Every year our transportation agency, NOACA, conducts bike counts in an attempt to quantify how many Northeast Ohioans are cycling on the roads. For years, NOACA's bike count methodology has had its share of critics. Until recently, the count was a two-hour window in the morning and in the evening. Recently the window has been expanded to three hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. One knock against the program is differences between how bikes and cars are counted -- summer interns are posted at intersections for a single day (car counts are done for up to a week at an intersection). Also, time of day when many cyclists commute (the hoards of restaurant and bar servers who commute by bike, for example) isn't being considered, because the mindset is to capture only the nine-to-fivers.

That said, the investment in the Euclid Avenue bike lane (photos here) is paying off. In 2006, for four hours of 7am-9am and 4pm-6pm, 22 cyclists were counted at the intersection of E. 40th and Euclid. In 2010, for comparable hours, the count was 76. That's more than tripling the count. Investing in cycling pays off, big time, for the community, says ClevelandBikes Kevin Cronin.

A better way to capture data may be to use the existing traffic light cameras or mobile cameras. Cameras can be more objective, their recordings could provide more data about when and where cyclists actually use the roads, and also allow the same interns to review much more data sitting at a desk. See Bellevue, WA bike count methodology using cameras.

Another knock on the bike counts is the underlying reason for doing them. Most counts are done to justify building more roads or widening the ones we have. To make a cycling count more effective we suggest the question needs to change from how many to where are people cycling and how can we improve the conditions for cycling along those routes? To get smart about it, we would look at the major employment centers in the region-downtown and University Circle- and map the bike commute "shed" for those centers and what are the preferred routes? Then we would devise a plan to improve those routes.


Fewer young people are driving today A new study by All State Insurance finds that the rite of passage for today's teens is less about the driver's license and more about can I afford the new iPhone? Much speculation has gone into the astonishing 7.7% drop in miles driven by 21-30 year olds in the last decade-is it the economy? More 'socializing' online? Millenials don't feel safe driving/would rather have mom and dad chauffeur them? A rise in environmental consciousness? Whatever the cause, it's a trend that's bound to continue, so now's the time to start designing communities for fewer cars and more telecommuters.


From Rails to Trail Conservancy: Be an advocate for more livable communities. Call the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown and tell them you support "The Livable Communities Act of 2010" (S. 1619), and the Merkley Amendment on Active Transportation. Senator Brown serves on the Banking Committee, which will address the legislation tomorrow morning, Tuesday, August 3. This will fund the Sustainable Communities Initiative to redesign transportation and housing to meet environmental goals on a regional scale. Northeast Ohio has a group working on a proposal for a grant.


All Aboard Ohio passed along information that train ridership on North Carolina's Piedmont passenger rail line between Charlotte and Raleigh has increased 200% after the state added an additional midday train. Read more.


From Walk + Roll: BikeTown is coming to Cleveland Could a bicycle change someone's life? In 2003 Bicycling Magazine gave 50 people in Portland, Maine new bicycles to see what could happen. Since then, thousands of lives all over the U.S. have been changed by BikeTown bicycles. People have lost weight, connected with their family, been able to beat diabetes, saved money, overcome depression, renewed marriage vows and dozens of other stories.

For 2010, BikeTown is going to eight cities:

  • Cleveland
  • Indianapolis
  • Denver
  • Boston
  • Minneapolis
  • Los Angeles (with Best Buddies)
  • New Orleans
  • Charleston

Essays are being accepted through August 5. The BikeTown giveaway ceremony will be at University Circle's "Wade Oval Wednesday" concert on August 11. All selected participants will receive a new Jamis bicycle and a helmet. If chosen, you (or someone you know) must be at the WOW concert to pick up your bicycle. At least one additional bike will be raffled to people in the audience, so bring your friends, family and co-workers to University Circle's "Wade Oval Wednesday" concert on August 11.

  • Comments
  • Print

Leave a comment »

Filter by RSS

Social media feed

Ten water saving tips

Ten water saving tips >

We're at the shore of Lake Erie, but we still have good reasons to conserve

10 ways to stay cool and save

10 ways to stay cool and save >

See these tips to beat the heat and save money.

10 best ecological restoration

10 best ecological restoration >

Cities are healthier as a whole when nature is invited in.