Posts Tagged ‘bike counts’

Detroit bicycle use – 8 years ago

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Despite what others have said or written, there is no accurate bicycle use data for the city of Detroit.

So, we rely on anecdotal evidence. Everyone we’ve spoken with have been impressed with the increased bicycle use during the past couple years.

Jason Hall wrote about it this excellent overview, The State of Biking in Detroit.

You see, bikes are becoming more and more a part of everyday life in the Motor City. On that very same 5 a.m. ride to work, I’ll pass five cyclists and maybe one car. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I ride all the time that I notice bicyclists more often, but the fact of the matter is that the bicycle community has grown.

Jason Hall and I were on the FlashPOINT program with Devin Scillian. (The bicycling segment begins at 16 minutes.) Scillian noted the increasing number of bicyclists at the Detroit fireworks.

And we just came across this document from 2004, Detroit’s Downtown Transportation Master Plan. Yes, it calls for improved biking and walking facilities, but what we found more intriguing is its assessment of bicycling in downtown Detroit circa 2004.

Bicycling is currently one of the least used of all transportation modes in the downtown area. According to SEMCOG, less than 1 percent of home-based trips into and out of downtown are made by bicycle. While recreational bicycling is relatively common along the riverfront areas, little utilitarian bicycle use has been observed within downtown, as a lack of roadway facilities and end-of-trip amenities (such as bicycle parking or shower/change facilities) is prevalent throughout most of the area. In addition, inclement weather during significant portions of the year diminishes the ability for individuals to consistently use of bicycles for non-recreational transportation.

We disagree with their take on weather, but not on their observation of few people using for bicycles for transportation back then.

That’s not s a statement one could make today.

The Downtown Plan also adds this:

Between the years of 1997 and 1999, approximately 15 bicycle-automobile crashes occurred downtown, with no fatalities. Because of the low volume of bicycle activity occurring downtown, the number of crashes occurring indicates a need to further consideration of bicycle safety and the improved integration of bicycles into the transportation fabric of downtown.

Seeing the number of bicycle crashes, we looked at the most recent three years of data. From 2009 to 2011, there were just 7 crashes and no fatalities. In fact, most of the crashes didn’t involve injury.

This is a significant drop from the late 90s. It may indicate that the increase in cyclists has helped changed drivers expectations.

There is safety in numbers, and Detroit’s cycling numbers have definitely grown.

Detroit’s WalkScore is broken. Bikescore too?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

The popular Walkscore web site gives estimates of a city’s walkability.

It’s not perfect. It’s really a measure of density rather than infrastructure. It also assumes roads have sidewalks (because Google Maps makes the same assumption.)

But there’s a bigger problem in the city of Detroit.

Detroit neighborhoods like Midtown receive high scores of 85 out of 100 — or “very walkable.”

Neighborhoods like Downtown receive an 18 or “car dependent.” For reference Auburn Hills gets a 36.

Looking at the walkability heatmap shows the Walkscore bug. Notice the red stair steps along the river? The Walkscore program is selecting restaurants, stores and other destinations in Canada. That might be okay for but it doesn’t work for walking.

Unfortunately affects all the Detroit neighborhoods along the River and lowers the overall score for the City.

So breath with relief. Detroit is not tied with Garden City with a score of 50.

We’ve documented this bug as have others and shared it with WalkScore, but it hasn’t been resolved yet.

Bike Score

This week the walkscore people released a bike score. As far as we can tell, they didn’t publish Detroit’s number but our guess is it’s even more inaccurate than the city’s walkscore.

Besides this border bug, their methodology relies heavily on the American Census Bureau bike commuting numbers for Detroit, which we’ve already shown are too inaccurate to be useful.

They also assume that streets with bike infrastructure are more bikeable than streets without. That may make sense in most cities, but not in Detroit.

Which of these two streets are more bike friendly to your eyes?

Despite the motorized traffic, groups like Bikescore, the League of American Bicyclists, and the Alliance for Walking and Biking say the one of the left is because there’s a bike marking on the pavement. However, what cyclist wouldn’t choose the wide open Second Avenue instead (or the similar Third, Brush, John R, 12th, 14th, etc.)

Unfortunately the very low traffic volumes on Detroit roads aren’t measured in the scoring.

There could be a traffic factor based on vehicle ownership and road density. It would probably be a more accurate indicator than the census bikes counts, though that’s setting the bar pretty low.

Until such a factor is developed and applied in the scoring, Detroit will not be accurately recognized as the bike friendly city it truly is.

Detroit: There are no accurate bike counts

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

How many people in Detroit bike? How has this changed over time?

They’re very popular questions. The truth is we don’t know. Nobody does.

And that same answer is true for most American cities – accurate bicycling data does not exist.

That hasn’t stopped some groups from pretending that it does.

If you read the recent Huffington Post article on Detroit, you may have seen this.

A 2012 report by the Alliance for Biking & Walking found the number of bicycle commuters in Detroit rose 258 percent over the last two decades.

Sounds good, right? The Alliance report says Detroit had 340 daily bicycle commuters in 1990 and 1,217 in 2009.

What the Alliance report fails to tell you are the margins of error, which really give you an idea how inaccurate these numbers are.

That 2009 number is 1,217 plus or minus 803. Yep, the Census says the actual 2009 number could be as low as 414, likely within the 1990 number’s margin of error.

Another thing to consider: The 2009 numbers are based on a Detroit population of over 900,000, which is off by couple hundred thousand people.

And while everyone acknowledges Detroit’s notable increase in cycling activity last year, the 2010 Census numbers show bicycle commuting dropped nearly in half to 651 plus or minus 424.

If this hasn’t convinced you these numbers are quite worthless, there’s more.

The Census numbers only includes those who are working and 16 years or older. The Census doesn’t count most people who combine modes (e.g. use the bus bike racks) or who bike only a couple times a week.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking were made aware of these Census discrepancies for Detroit, but for the most part they did not address them. That’s why Detroit chose not to participate in the most recent report.

Other cities

Other cities are making big strides in understanding bicycling trends and counts. They’re doing travel surveys and bicycle counts — both automatically and manually — at key bridges and intersections.

And in cities like New York, they’ve found their counts don’t match the Census numbers either.

Detroit’s done some bicycle counts around Woodward, in Southwest Detroit, and on the RiverWalk, but not enough to draw any major conclusions. It would great if some future bike lane projects (looking at you, E. Jefferson!) could get some automated counters.

Until then, there just aren’t any good answers.