SFMTA: City Bike Count Up 71 Percent Since 2006

The SFMTA released its 2011 Bicycle Count Report [PDF] today, showing a continued citywide increase in bicycling in recent years.

A press release from the Mayor’s Office states:

Since 2006 when 4,862 bicycle riders were counted, San Francisco’s bike counts have increased an impressive 71 percent to 8,314 riders, and have increased 7 percent since 2010. Bike trips accounted for 3.5 percent of all trips in the City compared to two percent in 2000…

The 2011 Bicycle Count Report relied on a new methodology and more comprehensive approach which included American Community Survey findings, manual intersection counts, loop-detector automated corridor counts and Metropolitan Transportation Commission manual counts. The purpose of changing the methodology was to bring San Francisco’s data in line with national reporting standards.

“These counts back up what is apparent on our streets everyday — that San Franciscans love bicycling, and that bicycling has never been more popular,” San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with city leaders, neighbors and local businesses to help even more people bicycle by connecting the city with safe and inviting crosstown bikeways, helping the city reach its goal of 20 percent of trips by bicycle by 2020.”

  • PHB

    2000 bike mode share: 2%. Current bike mode share: 3.5%. Desired 2020 bike mode share: 20%. So, we’ve achieved a 150% increase in biking since 2000. We need to achieve a 450% increase to make our official 2020 target. Nine years of 7% increases will not get you to 450%. Clearly, the city needs to dramatically step up bike safety, education, and incentives. Otherwise, we’ll be lucky to hit 5% bike mode share by 2020.

  • The list of upcoming bicycle projects does not include Cesar Chavez East of 101… 🙁

  • Mario Tanev

    If the growth is a steady 7% per year, by the end of 2020 bicycling will have 6.43% mode share.

    And this “impressive” growth of 71% in 6 years translates to 9.3% yearly growth, which is higher than the growth of 7% in the last two years (which is about 3.46% yearly growth). So growth is actually slowing down right now.

    We’ll need consistent 21.4% growth for the next 9 years in order to reach the 20% mode share target by the end of 2020.

    Does anyone think this is realistic given the existing policies? There should be a hearing every year on how to attain this yearly target, otherwise this is just like “transit first” – wishful thinking without any power.

  • The most amusing stat here given the amount of hate thrown around on the blog comment sections – 94% of riders observed were not riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way.

  • Anonymous

    I glanced at this article and for a second I thought it said “Bicycle Cotillion Executive Director Leah Shahum” instead of “Bicycle Coalition” and I had a vision of debutantes in gowns and tiaras riding bicycles…

  • Casey

    Maybe I’m missing something but by my math an increase from 4,862 to 8,314 is not 71%  It would actually be under 50%

  • Casey

    Ack, nevermind, my math is dumb!  I figured it out.

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree. There is no way, at the current growth rates, that the city will reach 20% by 2020. I’d say they’d be lucky to get half that.

    If the city is *truly* serious about this goal, then it needs to stop talking so much and start “doing”. And bigtime. In addition to all the plans for connecting the city drawn up by the SFBC, we need protected and buffered bike lanes for Valencia St (and they need to remove the middle lane and add bollards every couple of blocks to stop through-car-traffic), Fell/Oak St, Cesar Chavez, Market, Harrison, Embarcadero, Webster, 17th St, Kirkham, Great Ocean Highway, etc.; we need bicyclists prioritized on the Wiggle (again: bollards); we need the cops to stop unfairly busting bicyclists balls and instead start pulling over the car drivers that truly wreak havoc on our roads; we need a DA that truly punishes drivers (license revoked for at least a year and jail time) for hitting cyclists (when it’s the driver’s fault) rather than just claiming it’s an “accident”; we need to realize that car parking can never trump bicycle lanes; and lastly, we need to see the city adding lots of the little things that show that they truly want everybody on their bikes, like footrests for bicyclists at intersections, adding a bike detour as well as a car detour when there’s construction rather than just completely neglecting the cyclists and expecting them to somehow improvise, etc.

  • Mario Tanev

    The city has no plan on how to get to the 20% target. Even the perfect infrastructure may not guarantee that that target is attained.

    The city needs to actively work to lower impediments to ridership, by addressing the following needs:
      – Need to seriously invest in safe and ubiquitous bicycle infrastructure that gives the bicycle priority at intersections (so that 8 and 80-year olds don’t have to negotiate too much with traffic). This is the “Connecting the city” vision. I honestly don’t think this is enough to achieve mode share.
      – Need to seriously deal with bike theft. It is much more likely than car theft, and it needs to be brought down to be competitive with the car.
      – Need to either deal with above or provide ubiquitous secure bicycle parking. I notice so many of the corrals not being used, with many bicycles parked on poles nearby. Why? Because everyone wants to park right in front of the business they visit, because they feel they have more control over the fate of their bicycle.
      – Need to entice new riders who are not attracted by the infrastructure alone. Bike sharing at low cost is one way to achieve that, especially if it is heavily marketed as a replacement for the automobile. Bike sharing must be ubiquitous (city-wide) and reliable.
      – Need to integrate with Muni and BART to solve the last-mile case. Currently Muni Metro doesn’t even allow bicycles on board and BART doesn’t allow them in rush hour.
      – Need to provide clear and prominent bicycle routing signs, so that nobody has to guess how the wiggle wiggles.
      – Need to ensure that bicycle lanes are never occupied by other vehicles. Valencia street is great for biking except almost every block has a double-parker. The city must place maintenance and availability of bicycle infrastructure above automobile infrastructure. That means that if there is a detour and the city can’t be bothered different directions for bicycle and autos, it should only put up bicycle directions and ignore the auto use-case (today we have the opposite).

  • Seven

    At least as amusing is the stat that over 50% of cyclists on Lincoln Way ride on the sidewalk.

    Lincoln Way is my walking commute to work.

    I support cyclists and recognize Lincoln Way’s shortcomings, but endangering pedestrians is not an appropriate solution.

  • 20% by 2020 is not a realistic goal, any more than 10% by 2010 was. Remember that slogan from the Bicycle Coalition?

    The numbers in the latest count aren’t very impressive. On page 21 we learn that from 2002 through 2010, bike commuters increased from 2.1% to a not-very-impressive 3.5%. That’s an increase of only 1.4% in nine years—.16% a year!

    Using percentages exaggerates the significance of cycling. On page 18 we learn that there were only 521 more cyclists counted than in the previous count: 8,314 over 7,793.

    The only way SF could possibly reach 20% by 2020—or even 10% by 2020—is by creating something a lot like gridlock on city streets. If City Hall even attempts to do that, the blowback from city residents will dwarf the recent protest against parking meters. 

  • TL

    @Seven: Lincoln needs so much love, for both bikes and pedestrians! What a mess it is today. Like many other bike/ped causes, this is one where we need to work on these problems in tandem and come up with a solution that makes the park edge the inviting space to walk and bike that it rightfully should be.

  • TL

    @jd_x:disqus Yes, but many of those routes ought to be bike boulevards, not cycle tracks. We are so focused on cycle tracks right now that I think we’re missing out on a solution that makes a lot more sense on residential streets like Kirkham and 17th (all the others you listed really should be cycle tracks, agreed). Bike boulevards are so thoroughly missing from the conversation right now, it’s a bit odd.

  • Aaron Bialick

    @Seven – As an Inner Sunset bike commuter, I agree that there’s an issue. I think the first step to take is to install wayfinding signs/markings to point out that there’s a great route via Irving and Hugo Street. That said, I think the vast majority do seem to figure it out and stay off of Lincoln.

  • mikesonn

    Step outside and behold the increasing number of cyclists!

  • Mario Tanev


    The “city” via the SFBOS has decided that 20% by 2020 is a goal in a resolution. Either it’s a fake goal (like “transit first”) or the city should actually put an effort to achieve the goal. Residents can rightfully voice their disagreement with the goal (either by giving their supervisor an earful or by voting in someone else), but unless that resolution is rescinded, the city should try to actually achieve the goal, rather than fool everybody.

  • Mario Tanev

    I can only think of a few bike boulevards in the city today: Tiffany, the Wiggle and Octavia.

    Some problems I see with them:
       – Drivers do not respect cyclists to a sufficient degree
       – All bicyclists improvise – there is no education explaining how to behave on such  bicycle-friendly streets and no mechanism to deal with aggressive/inattentive drivers.
       – Tiffany has speed bumps and that’s bad for bicyclists
       – There is no clear way-finding. At the very least bicycle paths are obvious, whereas shared roads are not.

    Real bicycle boulevards must make it clear that cars are guests and that bicycles are the primary vehicle of choice, and that is not the case today. For that to be the case, I think the opposition would be even greater than simply adding a bicycle lane/cycle track.

    There is a false assumption that shared roads should be equally shared among all users. Such an arrangement cannot put cyclists at ease, because they now that drivers have the upper hand as they control a much more dangerous vehicle. The system needs to be biased away from drivers to make them feel uncomfortable for a street to be considered safe by cyclists. One way to achieve that is to ensure that the street gets more bicycle traffic than car traffic and that’s a chicken-and-egg problem.

  • The only way SF could possibly reach 20% by 2020 is with gasoline at 8 bucks a gallon. If I were a betting man, and I am definitely a betting man…

  • Aaron Bialick

    Well, Rob, perhaps the numbers would be different if you hadn’t caused improvements to be unnecessarily delayed for four years.

  • Seven

    I’d suggest that a 2020 goal of 20% of trips by bike + walking could be achievable. Bike only? No way.

  • I like that SFMTA is now collecting data in late September rather than early August. I do, however, question the emphasis in this report on bicycle commuters. 

    Nationally, only 15% of all trips are commute trips. 45% are shopping/errands, and 27% are social/recreational. (see http://www.bts.gov/programs/national_household_travel_survey/daily_travel.html )

    Looking at the San Francisco bicycling data, 65% of all weekday bicycling trips occur between 6:30-10:30 in the morning and 4:30-8:30 at night. Now even if we assume that all these trips are commute trips (a very questionable assumption, given the national data) that still leaves 35% of bicycle trips happening between 10:30 – 4:30 and 8:30-10:30pm.  And looking at daily counts, Monday – Friday are indeed the highest bicycling days, but Saturday is no slouch. Saturday and Sunday together account for 23,500 trips. If we add on to that 35% of the Monday-Friday counts, we get a total of 50,065.  This is actually a larger number than the Monday-Friday commute time counts of 49,335. So to say work commutes make up most of the bicycle trips in the city is simply inaccurate.

    (I realize that people could commute during non-peak commute times. I would guess this number is far less than those doing social/recreational/errand/shopping trips during peak commute times.)

    As of 2010, out of San Francisco’s 805,000 residents, only 443,140 are actually employed, and 31,000 of those work from home. That means only 51% of San Franciscans actually commute to work. The SFMTA also needs to remember that nationally 40% of all trips taken are under 2 miles. If San Francisco could convert more of these under-2-mile trips to non-car trips we would see a dramatic drop in traffic congestion. While I am thrilled that more and more people are commuting to work, we shouldn’t ignore the importance of bicycling for those quick runs to the grocery store or dropping the kid off at school. (For example, It is estimated that in most cities parents driving their children to school make up 20 – 30% of morning commute congestion. I would guess that in San Francisco, with its high rate of private school attendance and low rate of children attending neighborhood public schools, this number is even higher.)

  • Kevin

    I agree with Mario. Bike Boulevards are a great concept, but I feel though that the only thing that gives it power is that traffic is shunted to be local only (as in the case in Berkeley). However, even then, I’ve gotten my share of road rage/driver indifference on the Berkeley boulevards. I couldn’t image this in SF, which was waaay more drivers.

    Cycletracks are the only way you can widen ridership the 8-to-80 crowd. When I’m riding them I can feel like I can relax for once. If SF had a plan to implement these improvements in SF I would call it progressive. However, it seems like The City is in a downward spiral of dysfunction – no substantial improvements in infrastructure on the major corridors and constant police harassment.

  • TN

    As I read the strategic plan, the goal is for pedestrian and bicyclist total share to be 40% by 2020. The pedestrian share is already somewhere between 10 and 20 % of traffic, depending on the type of counting used in various studies. San Francisco has had a very high pedestrian modal share for a very long time. It was in this same range when I first started to look at the numbers during the 1970’s. The share is exceptionally high for a city located west of the Mississippi River.

    While I appreciate Streetsblog for reporting on bicycling, I think that more reporting on potential improvements for pedestrians would be very helpful. Given the large number of people using already walking as their main mode of transport in SF, a relatively small increase in the pedestrian share would dwarf a larger percentage increase in the number of cyclists.

    While it is often suggested by bicyclists that improvements for bicyclists also benefit pedestrians, I don’t know that the improvements desired by pedestrians are quite the same as those desired by bicyclists. They are often different. Consider for example of rights of way of different modes at intersections.

    Increasing the number of pedestrian trips would also decrease the number of people using MUNI for short trips and so reduce the pressure on transit.

  • Kevin

    Can someone with statistics knowledge help me: Is this the same thing as saying that around 2 in 3 bikers on the road now started biking in 2006 and beyond?

  • Lofty goals but frankly even if we improve a little, we get a lot.

  • mikesonn

    @twitter-14678929:disqus “Someone else can change modes”

  • The Greasybear

    Regarding the city’s goal of having 20% of all trips via bike in 2020, perhaps it is too lofty as some are saying–but perhaps not. We shouldn’t take the growth rates covered in this report–from 2006 to 2011–as inevitable, especially since four of those five years were under the cloud of the execrable Rob Anderson’s anti-bike injunction. It’s entirely possible we can grow bicycling faster now that new bicycle infrastructure is, at long last, legal again in San Francisco.

  • “Execrable”? Oh, dear! In fact the city’s annual reports show that cycling grew faster during the years when the injunction on the Bicycle Plan was in effect. It was the City of San Francisco that violated the law by not doing the required environmental review of that ambitious plan before it began implementing it on the streets of the city.

  • mikesonn

    That just proves that we need more infrastructure to grow mode share.

  • Anonymous

    Not quite. Say you had 100 bicyclists in 2006. A 71% increase between 2006 and 2011 would mean that there are now 100*0.71 = 71 *new* bicyclists on the road in 2011. The *total* number of bicyclists on the road in 2011 is then 100 + 71 = 171 bicyclists. So that means that, of the 171 bicyclists now on the roads, 71 are new, which is 71/171 = 0.41 of the total. So 41% of the bicyclists on the road in 2011 are new since 2006.

  • Anonymous

    @ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus  wrote: “The only way SF could possibly reach 20% by 2020—or even 10% by
    2020—is by creating something a lot like gridlock on city streets.”

    Yeah, right. Just like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which have an even greater percentage of trips by bicycle and no catastrophic gridlock problems (no more than any other US city with a much smaller share of trips by bicycle). Remember, the problem is self-correcting: if another 18% of people are cycling then they aren’t taking a car thereby freeing up space on the roads (or, if they were previously taking MUNI, then they have freed up space on MUNI so car drivers can switch to MUNI).

  • mikesonn

    @jd_x:disqus Don’t go forgetting that SF is different than every other place on earth. So so very different.

  • Severin

    Perhaps SF will see some kind of tipping point, where once there is a certain amount of infrastructure ridership will increase exponentially. I don’t think that’s too far fetched to assume, but that tipping point, or the first tipping point will certainly not result in 20%. I try to remain the optimist, though ultimately the city will need political will, that’s all it takes. It’s been great seeing so much ambition and innovative design  in SF from over here in LA where our DOT claims we cannot implement cycle tracks despite an existing one in Long Beach and many planned and partially implemented in SF.


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