Thursday, December 12, 2013

SFMTA 2013 Bicycle Count

Bicycle Coalition photo

At a mere 8 pages the city's latest bicycle count report is a more modest document than the last one, which was 46 pages, bloated with extraneous information, graphics, and cheerleading for cycling, as if it had to sell riding a bike to readers. (The city now leaves that proselytizing to its State of Cycling report, which is puffed up to 78 pages with that kind of material.)  

As it happens, the city's latest report shows that there's a lot for the city's bike movement to be modest about. Of the 39 intersections in the count that can be compared with the last count (page 7), 12 actually show a lower count than 2011, even though the count is now done in September, instead of August, which means that the city's 100,000+ college students and the Burning Man folks are all back in town to inflate the numbers.

The MTA changed the count from August to September to conform to National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project standards.

Observations at 51 key intersections during the 4:30-6:30PM peak period demonstrate typical bicycling trends in San Francisco. These counts serve as a sample and do not count all bicycle trips in the city, just the volumes observed at the 51 locations during the evening peak period. The SFMTA is conducting a citywide mode share survey that will provide the bicycle mode share number for all trips for the city as a whole. For reference, the American Community Survey (ACS), which collects data from a sample of households, estimates San Francisco‚Äôs bicycle commute mode share to be 3.8% in 2012, compared to 3.4% in 2011 (page 4). 

Commuting by bicycle in the city has increased by .4% in one year!

In order to achieve the shift in transportation modes, the SFMTA 2013-2018 Draft Bicycle Strategy Plan estimates a need to increase bicycling from 3.5 percent of all trips to 8 to 10 percent of all trips by 2018. Bicycle counts are a key metric in assessing the progress towards these mode share goals (page 3).

Like previous goals of 10% by 2010 and 20% by 2020, even this more modest goal is impossible, since the MTA's latest Transportation Fact Sheet (page 3) says that only 3.3% of city commuters ride bikes to work, and their Mode Share Survey of 2011 (page 5) says that cycling accounts for only 3.4% of all trips made in the city

The city has a serious problem with these numbers, since all trips by bike (3.4%) must be significantly higher than the more specific, commuting-by-bike (3.3% or 3.8%) number. Since the city has been operating on a base of 2.1% bike commuters from 2000, that was the percentage that must have been inflated, thus distorting all future percentages.

Even taking the city's latest percentage (3.8%) on bike commuters, how likely is it that the city can achieve 8 to 10% of all trips in the city by bike by 2018?

Getting to 3.8% in 2012 from 2.1% in 2000 took an average gain of .15% a year. Getting to even 8% bike commuters by 2018 would require an annual gain of .70% a year. 

Achieving 8% of all city trips by bike---now 3.4%---by 2018 would take an average gain of .77% a year for six years.

The city wasn't able to achieve gains in cycling like that in the last eleven years, in spite of relentless anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition.

The real question: How much congestion and gridlock on city streets will City Hall create by even trying to achieve these goals?

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