First Bike Count Data Shows Steady Usage in Back Bay, South End

By Seth Daniel

The City of Boston released the first-ever electronic data of bicycle usage collected last September at 60 locations and found that an average of 30,000 bike trips per day, with many of the heaviest bike usage coming at spots in the Back Bay, South End and Fenway.

For many years, bike counts have been done by human observation counts, but in 2016, City officials did the first-ever counts in June and September using electronic counting mechanisms. The September numbers showed that bike usage is prominent in Boston’s downtown neighborhoods, especially at the Mass Avenue Bridge and on Columbus Avenue.

“Bicycling is a healthy and low-cost form of transportation and we are pleased that so many people are choosing bikes to get around the City,” said Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina N. Fiandaca. “We are working to make bicycling more convenient, comfortable, and accessible to people throughout Boston, and these counts will help us to track our progress and plan for future enhancements to our bicycling programs.”

The data did have it’s limits, however.

Due to a technical glitch, data for most the the Thursday data and some of the Wednesday data had to be discarded, likely reducing the counts significantly. Also, at one site the counting machine was vandalized, preventing it from counting accurately. It is also noted that those riding on the sidewalk are not counted either.

For the September counts, the top locations out of the 60 picked were:

  • Massachusetts Ave Bridge south of Back St (Back Bay): 3,081 bicyclists
  • BU Bridge north of Commonwealth Ave: 1,957 bicyclists
  • Commonwealth Ave west of Silber Way (Fenway): 1,571 bicyclists
  • Southwest Corridor Bicycle Path south of Heath St: 1,554 bicyclists
  • Longwood Ave east of Pilgrim Rd: 1,348 bicyclists
  • North Harvard St south of Soldiers Field Rd: 1,320 bicyclists
  • Columbus Ave west of Massachusetts Ave (South End): 1,314 bicyclists
  • Brighton Ave east of St. Lukes Rd: 1,063 bicyclists
  • Columbus Ave west of Holyoke St (South End): 825 bicyclists
  • Massachusetts Ave south of Columbus Ave. (South End): 797 bicyclists

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) said it used video counting to conduct the survey. Each location had video footage made for a certain period. That video was run through a special software program that counted bicyclists. Staff members were also stationed at several locations to manually count the bicyclists in order to verify the electronic counts.

“Automated counts allow us to capture bike trips taken throughout the day and in all kinds of weather,” noted Stefanie Seskin, BTD’s Active Transportation Director.”  This better reflects where people are riding today and will help us to understand where they’ll ride in the future.”

Other locations in the report in the neighborhoods also showed heavy usage, but didn’t make the top counts included:

  • Washington and Herald Streets (Ink Block), 356 (4 percent of traffic)
  • Mass Ave and Shawmut, 603 (2 percent of traffic)
  • Beacon Street east of Mountfort St., 738 (3 percent of traffic)
  • Beacon Street west of Raleigh St., 364 (2 percent of traffic)
  • Comm Ave west of Arlington St., 680 (5 percent of traffic)
  • Columbus Ave west of Arlington St., 605 (7 percent of traffic)

More information about the 2016 count program, including daily summaries from every count location, can be found at boston.gov/2016-bike-counts.

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