SFMTA Begins Installing More Bike Counters Around the City

A bicyclist approaches a new bike counter on Market Street just west of Van Ness Avenue.
A bicyclist approaches a new bike counter on Market Street near Van Ness Avenue. Photos: Bryan Goebel.

The SFMTA has begun installing 22 automatic bicycle counters at 15 locations throughout the city to help get a more accurate tally of the rising numbers of bicyclists in San Francisco.

The Zelt inductive loop counters are placed 1 to 3 inches below the pavement and each time someone pedals over one, the system detects a bicycle’s electromagnetic signature and logs it in the system.

“We’re excited to see these automated bike counters going in across San Francisco. They are a helpful tool for the city to realize just how many people bike each day,” said Renee Rivera of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “New bike lanes are already creating connections to make San Francisco an easier and safer place to live, shop, and play, and we’re expecting these bike counters will be hard at work counting many more people bicycling.”

The first automatic counter went in early 2009 on Fell Street between Scott and Divisadero, where the highest monthly total it recorded that year was 41,017 cyclists in September. The intersection of Fell and Scott alone has seen a whopping 70 percent increase in bicycle traffic. The SFMTA estimates there are more than 128,000 daily bicycle trips in the city and there has been a 53 percent increase in bicycling over the last four years despite the recently lifted injunction.

In the past, the SFMTA has used only manual counters, conducting counts during the month of August because of the typically dry weather. The SFMTA interns gathered numbers at 33 locations — mostly around the downtown core — and also tracked gender, helmet use and wrong way and illegal sidewalk riders.

The agency will continue the manual counts and it hopes to eventually extend the automatic counters to 33 locations. It plans to download the data quarterly and hopes to establish baseline averages in six months to a year.

More accurate counts of bicyclists should bolster the case for funding additional bike facilities and supporting strong bike policies. The counters were funded by a $126,000 Prop K grant.

Locations where the inductive loops are being installed. Image: SFMTA
An SFMTA worker installs a counter on Market Street near Van Ness.
An SFMTA worker installs a counter on Market Street near Van Ness.


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