Seattle’s First Bicycle Counter Unveiled in Fremont
October 11, 2012
By Cailey Nickerson
Seattle, Wash. - Cyclists lined up along Seattle’s Fremont Bridge this morning to welcome the country’s second, Washington’s first, automatic bicycle counter.
The counter, or “Eco-Totem” as it is officially called, is located on the northwest side of the Fremont bridge. Manual counts done by the SDOT determined that the Fremont Bridge is the most frequented route by cyclists in Seattle. Standing at seven feet, the totem digitally displays a daily tally of riders who have crossed the bridge on either side, as well as the cumulative amount per year. Those crossing the bridge will see the numbers go up in real time as they ride over an almost invisible triangle detector located on the sidewalk.
Cascade Bicycle Club donated the device with funding from the Mark and Susan Torrance Foundation back in July, however, installation was postponed until the city could get approval from proper officials. Activation was then scheduled for September, but damage during shipping caused delays in its unveiling. Thursday, October 4, seemed a promising day until SDOT workers found that while the counter was functioning properly, the display did not work. Today the official and almost glitch-free inception of Seattle’s first bicycle counter took place.
Officials in Portland, Ore., unveiled the country’s first counter on Hawthorne Bridge back in August. Speaking in Fremont, Chuck Ayers, executive director of Cascade Bicycle Club, joked that Seattle will hopefully see its third counter before Portland has its second.
Craig Moore, Management Systems Analyst for SDOT, says the Eco-Totem will help the city get a more accurate perspective on cycling trends. More specifically, the counter will allow for a better understanding of what deters and encourages people to travel by bike. Moore added that on top of the valuable data it provides, a bicycle counter shows that cycling is increasing in Seattle, stating, “It lets bikers know that they matter, and that they are a viable part of the city.”
As if on cue, right at 11 a.m. when the ceremony was scheduled to commence, a boat sounded its horn and the bridge lifted, forcing a several minute delay to the unveiling. Spectators and speakers waited patiently for the bridge to join again as two large yachts passed directly under the bridge in Union Canal.
Around 11:15 a.m., SDOT Director Peter Hawn took the podium and introduced the other speakers who played a part in bringing the device to Seattle. Others who spoke were City Council Member Tom Rassmussen, Mark Torrance of the Mark and Susan Torrance Foundation, and Chuck Ayers, Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club.
Rasmussen, who is also a cyclist, says the Eco-Totem is a part of the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan's vision to triple the number of cyclists by 2017. He also announced that Westlake Ave. will soon have an official bike lane added within the next two years.
Ayers added that cycling is becoming more of a popular transportation option, and that it is Seattle’s obligation to keep up, stating, “Research says biking is on the move. Many more people would like to bike more often, and many more people who don’t bike, would like to bike to begin with. We will get more people biking, and more people the right to choose how they get around.”
Torrance says test runs of the counter showed that around 3,500 cyclists use the Fremont bridge every day. “That’s 3,500 cars that don’t come across this bridge,” he says. The bridge is also connected to a website where users can access the Eco-Totems collected data. This includes weather, holiday and other impacts on cycling activity.
Moore says manual counts every four months (once per season) will still take place, however, the Eco-Totem will help to more accurately determine data. SDOT makes manual counts in fifty different locations in Seattle. He added that the city has goals of adding other bicycle counters, all that is needed is the funding. According to an SDOT news release,$30,000 covers the purchase, installation, and first year’s maintenance for an Eco-Totem.
After fifteen minutes of speeches, the three speakers walked over to the counter to remove its black covering. Efforts were stopped when someone found out that the machine had been tallying bikers crossing the east side of the bridge during the speeches. After resetting the counter, the much anticipated unveiling was complete, as cyclists rode across the bridge, the counter ticking away well into the 40s.
Thursday's collected data will be available the morning of Friday, October 12. The link is provided through SDOT’s site: www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikecounter.htm.
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