Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bicycle count report: "Bicycle use slowed down with 1% increase"


The MTA's long-awaited Annual Bicycle Count Survey 2014 has finally been released with no fanfare, not even a press release. Hard to see why it took eight months to complete, even though the city has radically changed its methodology, since the report now counts other transportation "modes":

The 2014 citywide count effort marks the first time the SFMTA utilized video data collection technology instead of manual intersection counts for this report; this enabled counting additional modes and locations within the survey timeframe, which provided a more robust dataset. Previous annual bike count reports only focused on a single mode; therefore, this approach captures a more holistic picture of trips at key locations by also counting people walking, taking transit, and traveling in vehicles in the city.

There's no further explanation of the new methodology. Apparently volunteers and Muni employees now take videos at their locations that are then used to make the count. It does give us "a more robust dataset" showing how insignificant bicycles are in the context of the city's transportation system.

No stories yet about the count report in the Chronicle or the Examiner, unlike previous years when the annual count was quickly greeted with celebratory and inaccurate stories by the city's housebroken journalists.[Later: Typically stupid and deceptive story on the count in the Chronicle on May 20 by a "transportation reporter" who has long been embedded in the Bay Area's government agencies.] 

Streetsblog has taken the lead with a typically deceptive opening sentence in a story on Bike to Work Day: 

City officials gathered for another Bike to Work Day rally at City Hall today to cheer for bicycling, celebrating a 206 percent jump in ridership since 2006, according to a new annual bike count released by the SFMTA today.

As the report itself says, "These counts serve as a sample and do not count all trips in the City. They only account for volumes observed at the 80 locations during the evening peak period."

That is, the count is done once a year between 4:30 and 6:30 in the evening a few days in September, and of course it doesn't try to measure overall bike "ridership" in the city. The city claims, based on the Census, that cycling is 3.8% of all trips in the city, though a Mode Share Survey in 2011 found that cyclists are only 3.4% of all trips.

I laughed when I saw how Streetsblog buried the real story on the count deep in its Bike to Work story: "But the bicycling increase has tapered off recently, with just a 1 percent increase from 2013 to 2014."

The report itself doesn't provide Streetsblog and City Hall with that bad news until page 5:

Bicycle use has been steadily rising in San Francisco since counts began in 2006. In 2014, this trend slowed down with a 1% increase in counts recorded citywide. Given that the data represent snapshots in time, drawing conclusions from a single year is difficult. Therefore, looking at patterns over several years is more indicative of larger trends.

That pattern, in a helpful page 5 graphic in the report below, shows that the count is clearly leveling off in recent years, as bike use in the city is evidently stalling:


The same thing is happening in Portland as shown more dramatically in a similar graphic below:


San Francisco's "long bike stagnation" is just beginning. 

More tomorrow on this report.

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