SFMTA to Install Three More Digital Bicycle Counters

The Market Street bike counter. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA plans to install three more bicycle counters with digital displays on busy biking streets. They will be placed “at visible locations on high volume bicycle corridors,” though the exact spots haven’t been finalized, according to a city planning document. “Potential locations include Market Street, Valencia Street, and the Embarcadero.”

The SFMTA has already purchased the “bicycle barometers,” as the city calls them, with two in storage and one more expected to arrive. They are scheduled to be installed between this August and February 2017, according to a report from the SF County Transportation Authority [PDF].

SF’s first visible bike counter was activated on Bike to Work Day in May 2013, on the south side of Market Street between Ninth and 10th Streets. On an average weekday, it currently counts between 3,700 and 4,400 bike commuters in one direction. (It was discovered at the start of the year that the detector had been missing an estimated 1,000 daily riders, since many did not roll over the in-ground sensor.)

Visible bike counters, which have been installed in cities like Copenhagen, Portland, Seattle, and Montreal, are intended to encourage bicycling by displaying a number that ticks up every time someone rolls by, showing both the daily an annual total. The message to the public is that people on bikes count.

The SFMTA has also installed 24 invisible bike counters around the city, which use inductive loops installed in the pavement to detect bicycles but don’t have a display feature. The data helps the SFMTA measure demand for bicycling and the effectiveness of bike lane improvements. The data for the Market counter, and an invisible counter on Fell at Divisadero Street, are displayed online.

The three new digital bike counters will cost $187,000 total for purchase, planning, installation, and two years of maintenance, according to the SFCTA report. They will be funded by $89,580 in SFMTA operating funds and $97,500 in Prop K sales tax funds, which must still be approved by the SFCTA Board. The Market counter was partially funded by a $20,000 grant from a locally-based online gaming company, and it’s maintained by the Central Market Community Benefit District.

  • mx

    It’s outrageous to me that we plan to spend SFMTA operating funds and sales tax funds on a project like this which benefits no one. While it’s not that much money, the funds could be put to far more productive use either with bikeway improvements or put toward any number of other SFMTA operating uses: transit, parking and traffic enforcement, etc…

  • What about opening up the counts on all the existing counters like the one on Fell St?
    Approximate, but not wholly confirmed map I started putting together: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zW2xDTrm4GZk.kFAbz5UFS9W8

  • BBnet3000

    I tend to agree. I’d prefer one showpiece counter on Market Street and leave it at that. $187,000 over 2 years is a lot of paint and plastic delineators.

  • shanand

    It does seem expensive, but I think it’s a paltry sum when you compare to all transportation funding. And if it is proven to drive cycle trips, it’s a bargain. Is it?

    What about putting this on the wiggle?

  • mx

    Thanks. I’m fine with the existing counter on Market St. (all the more so since some of the funding was donated). That one proves the point well enough on its own. They could put data from the other counters online far more cheaply if they wanted to.

  • And if these have been demonstrated to increase cycling, then I assume you’d change your view?

  • the_greasybear

    Yes, the Wiggle should have one of the three new counters.

  • Greg Costikyan

    Without offering any opinion as to the cost to benefit analysis: When I was in San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference, and biking on my (rented) bike between my Hayes Valley hotel and the Moscone Center, I enjoyed watching the bike counter tick up as I passed.

  • quinine_bubbles

    Seeing as Valencia, Market, and Embarcadero are all a part of my daily commute, it looks like I’ll be counted thrice! Can we get some counters for the double parkers on these streets as well?

  • jamiewhitaker

    Great! This must mean all of the City’s needed pedestrian safety improvements have been implemented – and now money can be pissed away on things that don’t save lives!

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Besides the two with online data currently (Fell b/w Scott + Divis, Market b/w 10th + 9th), the other counters require periodic manual downloading of the data. Someone must physically go into the field to pull the counts.

  • jd_x

    Wait: it’s going to take TWO years to install some silly bicycle sensors?! My god we are pathetic in this city. This is way it takes a decade to get bike lanes …

  • bdbfc

    There is on on Fell, not a visible one, but it counts.


  • The data would still be nice to see. Though I suppose it’s of little use if it’s just “32986 since last reset” instead of by day info.

  • jai_dit

    I’m really surprised at how much negativity is in the comments here. Yeah, these counters aren’t directly going to save lives, but they certainly will be used to justify further bike lane implementation. A lot of the planning process requires data to substantiate ridership estimates, so this will be unambiguously good to have.


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