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Bicycle count report uncovers interesting stats

Posted by on October 4th, 2006 at 1:05 pm

Roger Geller — PDOT‘s bicycle coordinator — has just released a 21-page report that details the “significant findings and analysis” of the 2006 bicycle counts.

Last summer, 53 volunteers fanned out across the entire metro area and conducted 73 distinct counts at 56 locations. Their findings, which are presented in both graphs and spreadsheets in the report, reveal some interesting statistics and trends regarding bicycle ridership in Portland. Among them are comparisons of ridership numbers in each part of the city and the gender and helmet use ratio of Portland cyclists.

From the report:

Counts in 2006 show significant and sometimes dramatic jumps across the city compared to previous counts at the same locations.

  • 5 of 12 count locations in SE Portland saw more than 1,000 daily bicycle trips
  • 3 of 7 locations in North Portland saw more than 1,000 daily bicycle trips
  • 2 of 12 locations in NE Portland saw more than 1,000 daily bicycle trips, and another 3 locations saw more than 850 daily trips.
  • 2 of 9 locations in the Central City saw more than 2,000 daily bicycle trips
  • Only 1 of 12 locations in West Portland (outside of the Central City) saw more than 1,000 daily bicycle trips with a second location at just under 1,000.
  • None of the three count locations in NW Portland had even 750 daily bicycle trips. This is especially disappointing given Northwest Portland’s proximity to the Central City and its population density, which is the highest in the state.

Women as a percentage of all riders have grown consistently over the years. Women now represent approximately 32% of all riders.

  • Nationally, women represent approximately one-quarter (25% of all riders); this was true in Portland through 2000.
  • In SE Portland women represent 45% of all riders, the highest for any area of the city.
  • In SW Portland (not including the Downtown), women represent 23% of all riders.

Bicycle use on the four main downtown bridges.
I reported about this already, but one new stat in this report is that bicycle trips represent approximately 10% of all vehicular trips on
these bridges.

Helmet use has grown in Portland from a low of 52% in 1992 to 73% in 2006.

  • Helmet use among women has always been, and remains much higher than for men.
  • City-wide, 84% of women wear helmets, compared to 68% of men.
  • Helmet use is highest in SW Portland (not including Downtown) with 89% of men and 94% of women wearing helmets. Overall, 90% of SW Portland cyclists wear helmets.
  • Helmet use is low in North Portland with 66% of cyclists wearing helmets. Only 58% of male cyclists there wear helmets, compared to 86% of women.

[Click image to enlarge]

Geller is currently working on an update of Portland’s Bicycle Master Plan and he says this information will,

“among other things, help us better understand how we’ve improved bicycle transportation for Portlanders and where we need to truly focus our efforts and resources in the coming years.”

Geller wants to hear your insights about the data, so take a look at the report and leave your comments here or email him at roger[dot]geller[at]pdxtrans[dot]org.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Matthew Picio
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It’s questionable whether helmet use has really changed – the helmet use statistics are based on observations during the peak hours, when all the commuters are out. If the increase in cyclists is due primarily to increased numbers of bike commuters, then the change in helmet statistics may be wholly represented by that group. Without an all hours count over the same timespan, it’s difficult to know if those statistics represent the riding community as a whole or merely the commuting subset.

What would be even more useful is hourly statistics over the bridge. I don’t know if the automated equipment records a timestamp, but the manual counts could surely be made to accommodate hourly statistics.

Chris Smith
Guest

A few thoughts about the low numbers in NW Portland:

1) I suspect because we are so close in, we may have a bias toward walking over cycling in some cases.

2) Because we are so connected in the grid, it may be that bike traffic does not concentrate in a few readily countable locations.

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

The relatively low ridership in NW is not suprising to this former NW-er.

1) It is on the side of a hill, making riding places require more effort.

2) The high density and integrated mixed-use means one has less distance to travel for any particular short-trip. Why bother with a bike when the coffee shop is only 2.5 blocks away?

3) Bus traffic is more frequent and more dense. I used to have 4 buses run within 2 blocks of my apt. Again, why bother with a bike when the next downtown-bound bus is going to be along in 10 or less minutes.

4) The main NW shopping stretches, 21st & 23rd, are so ped friendly, again there is no reason to bring a bike.

All in all, I don’t think it is so disappointing. People aren’t on bikes because they are walking.

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

Agree with Chris & Cougar, with one addition — the streetcar makes a huge difference. I live downtown (PSU area) and seldom ride there because it’s easier to take the streetcar and then walk around NW. It’s an almost ideal walkable area. And its success shows that we need to increase streetcar trip frequency and extend it to more parts of the city.

My thinking is generally: if I can ride the streetcar, I usually will. If the bus is my only public transport option, I’ll generally bike. Of course this all depends on circumstances like rain, how many errands in NW, whether I’m carrying stuff, etc.

Walking, biking, streetcar — it’s all good!

Joel
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Joel

I’d be interested to see other demographic data for the city and see what correlations can be drawn regarding helmet use. I suspect helmet use ties into socioeconomic status, but I’d be interested to see if that holds. Anyone know where I can find that data?

Cate
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Cate

I agree with the comments above. It’s not disappointing to me that the NW bicycling numbers are relatively low if people are using non-car transportation as an alternative.

I think the relatively low SW numbers are a bigger concern – I’d say it’s a good assumption that people are driving their cars rather than bicycling.

Cecil
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Cecil

As with others, I am not at all surprised that bike counts were low in NW – of all the quarters in Portland, that is the one I find it most difficult to ride in – narrow streets, lots of cars, lots of peds, train tracks, busy intersections. Fortunately, I rarely go there, and when I do it is because I am only going through there to get up to Skyline . .

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

I regularily commute by bike from NE to NW. I’m not too fond of biking in the NW area b/c there are few bike friendly routes that go E-W (as in from downtown to NW 23rd area). Are there any bike lanes that run from Front St.all the way up to 23rd? If so I’d love to know.
I contend with the limited streets crossing over I-405, lots of track crossings, and few through streets with out stop signs on every other block that are also not congested. Most of the time I end up on Glisan or Everett. Would love to see some traffic patterns changed to make this area more bike friendly.

Doug
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Doug

Michelle:

I used to bike commute from 6th and Morrison to NW 24th and Johnson, so I can get you at least part of the way there.

From 12th street to 23rd Johnson is a great steet to bike on. There aren’t any bike lanes, but there are sharrows and it’s relatively calm. I don’t think there’s much traffic east of 12th but perhaps someone else would like to pipe in there.

beth
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beth

I’m not suprrised at the lower helmet findings in North (and, I suspect, NE) Portland. I live in the Woodlawn neighborhood and I, too, wonder about socioeconomic status — and race — playing a role in this number. (Of course, any race-based bicycle statistic would be automatically skewed by the simple fact that Portland is a really white town, so perhaps this is too much to ask from such a survey.)

J E
Guest
J E

Living in North Portland, I’ll throw my two cents in on the helmet issue. I agree with those suggesting it’s socioeconomic. Riders who appear to be college students and those riding the nicer bikes are wearing helmets. Working class folks (or poorer) riding dept store bikes or older used bikes are not.

I suspect the are two main reasons. Most important is economic. When using a bike to haul cans to Fred Meyer to get money for food, a helmet is not going to be a priority purchase.

The second reason would be a lack of safety and cycling education. These folks probably don’t have pc’s at home to check out websites like this and they’re not buying cycling magazines. Many of them appear Hispanic, so a lack of English language skill would also come into play. I’ve also noticed this group of cyclists tend to ride unsafely in general; riding on the wrong side of the road, ignoring traffic laws at intersections, etc..

I would suggest a bilingual education effort with flyers and pamphlets available at local stores. Perhaps a free or discount helmet program also. The more cyclist we can get riding safely, the better for all.

peder horner
Guest

I completely agree with J E. As a North Portlander, I see the very same things. There are a lot of people who ride the wrong direction on Vancouver/Williams, and there are many more who seem to think that it’s safer to ride on the sidewalks, even when there are nice, freshly painted, wide bike lanes.

Education is key. Economics are part of the problem, but there are very cheap helmet options, and I seem to remember seeing some free helmets available occasionally. Perhaps the BTA could focus on this group, since we have many, many bike riders in the 5th quadrant.

:: peder horner ::

freddy
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freddy

Yet another comment thread hijacked by the helmet zealots…ZZZZZZZZZ.

Joel
Guest
Joel

I talked to a very helpful woman in the Beaverton city office (sorry…can’t find her info right now) about the unsafe riding in our neighborhood. The point I made to her was the same that JE is making above; many people are not riding unsafely out of ill intent but rather out of ignorance. All the drivers’ ed info won’t make a difference if you can’t read, can’t afford a car, are illegal or otherwise never attend. My suggestion was to print out bilingual safety fliers about safe riding and post them in bus shelters and MAX stops all over town.

Let’s do this all over Portland. See if we can get some help from Tri-Met and the city. It seems like a pretty cheap solution to the problem.

Joel
Guest
Joel

Typo…I meant to say “are here illegally” rather than “are illegal”. It’s Friday…

Tiah
Guest
Tiah

Despite my preference to wear a helmet I had to laugh at Freddy’s comment.
In response to Peder’s comment “and there are many more who seem to think that it’s safer to ride on the sidewalks, even when there are nice, freshly painted, wide bike lanes” I must point out that it IS safer to ride on the sidewalk, there aren’t any cars there! It just doesn’t help the whole notion of sharing the road…However if someone doesn’t feel comfortable riding on the street and rides on the sidewalk, without getting in the way of pedestrians, then that isn’t a problem.

peder horner
Guest

Tiah: I’m not so sure you’re correct.
Sidewalks, where they cross driveways, are quite dangerous indeed, as landscaping items (columns, fences, trees, shrubs, etc) often hinder good visibility of a motorist exiting a property/driveway etc. This is especially true when bicyclists are moving at such a faster rate (usually) than pedestrians. I’ve seen many more “near misses” and accidents where a motorist hits a bicyclist on the sidewalk coming out of a blind driveway than bike lane incidents. I don’t have any raw data, but this is just a good hunch based on a lot of good anecdotal experience.

Tiah
Guest
Tiah

oh. I wasn’t thinking about the cars out of driveways scenario, I just meant sidewalks near streets that weren’t residential…
Still, since cars do not spend much time on the sidewalk I would maintain that there more chance of getting hit by a car on the street. I’m not advocating for riding on the sidewalk, don’t get me wrong. I ride in the street and think that is the best place to be. That does not, however, mean I think bike lanes are really safe. I am often almost turned in to whilst riding down Broadway, usually at least once per ride, if not more. Drivers turning right on Broadway have a really hard time remembering the bike lane is there,apparently.
Anyhow, thanks for pointing out my error about sidewalk safety.

peder horner
Guest

Tiah: You’r absolutely correct about Broadway. I have people turn in front of or into me very often on my daily commute up the hill. It’s a real bugger. For whatever reason, Broadway seems the worst of all bike lanes in the city for this problem. I wonder if the BTA and the city folks are aware of this?

peder

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

Agreed. Broadway would be the ideal place in town for the city to try something more extreme — like using the European model of placing the bike lane between the street parking and the sidewalk rather than between the street itself and the parking. That would do more to alert drivers to the new reality of road sharing than almost any other place on the west side of the river.
Failing that, maybe paint the Broadway bike lane blue?

peder horner
Guest

Does anyone here know the higher-ups or how this should be raised?

:: peder ::

Jonathan Maus
Guest

I’ll email PDOT bike manager Roger Geller and have him chime in. Also, just for background, remember this post about Broadway’s existing bike lanes?