My Commute Is Not So Lonely Anymore!


Photo by JoeMabel. Some rights reserved.

A little over a year ago, I noticed something on my bike ride to work: a small electronic podium about the size of a parking meter had popped up just before the pedestrian/cyclist path across Seattle’s Fremont bridge. And on that small electronic podium was an LED screen, and on that LED screen was a number, somewhere in the low four hundreds if I remember correctly. As I approached it, the number on the screen rose by one. Well, I’ve read Sherlock Holmes and I know how deductive reasoning works, so I worked out what was going on – someone (Seattle’s Department of Transportation, it turns out) had installed a bike counter that was using sensors in the sidewalk on both sides of the bridge to count each cyclist as they rode across. I found out later they had installed a second counter on the West Seattle Bridge, all as a part of Seattle’s very official sounding “Bicycle Master Plan“, which is exactly what it sounds like.

I’ve since made it a daily habit to predict what the day’s number will be when I ride across. There are obvious factors that contribute – time and date for instance: if I ride across at 8:15 am on a Monday, the number is likely to be higher than if I rode across at the same time on a Saturday, but likely to be lower than if I rode across at 10:15 am on a weekday. Just as obvious would be weather, and more generally the time of year: if the temperatures are higher (as in Seattle’s delightful May – October summers), more people are likely to bike to work. Yadda yadda, you understand how this works. I didn’t say it was a particularly complex game, just an activity to pass the time. If its a sunny weekday, my guess is likely to be in the 800 – 1000 range, whereas if its rainy and wintertime, my guess is more likely to hover around 500. I’ve never gotten it right on the dot, but I have been within ten, so that’s something.

Now, though, the DOT has made the data publicly available for your perusal, and the news is good! Bike traffic across the bridge is 28% up overall in the last year since the counter first went up. On their site you can create your own graphs by filtering the data by time of day, time of year, weather conditions, and more. This might be especially neat for me because I feel I’ve made a significant contribution to the data, but hey – who doesn’t love colored interactive graphs?

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