Results of the 2013 Bike Count
The City conducted its Sixth Annual Bike Count in October. Sixty-five volunteers were stationed at 23 locations around the city to count bicyclists and pedestrians. Nearly 5,000 cyclists and over 11,000 pedestrians were recorded during the 6-hour bike count.
MATURATION OF BICYCLING IN LONG BEACH
Over the past six years, the City has consistently used eleven locations to gauge the changes in cycling year over year. Those original eleven feature different types of infrastructure, including bike paths, bike lanes, metro stations, sharrow lanes, and unstriped bike routes. Because of the consistent data collected over the past six years, those sites have served as a reference point that allowed the city to track increases in the number of pedestrians and cyclists in Long Beach. In 2013 volumes increased 3% at these eleven locations from 2012 and 45% from 2008.
The data suggest that the eleven original locations have reached a mature traffic flow. In the first few years of the survey we added new infrastructure, bike lanes, sharrows, and separated lanes at a number of these locations. But over the past three years, there have been little or no change in infrastructure and the volumes have leveled off. Established bikeways tend to have a consistent volume from year to year. For example, the City’s bike paths on the beach and the San Gabriel and Los Angeles rivers have seen very consistent volumes since the city began recording cyclist traffic.
Where we have seen most growth in cycling traffic has been due to new infrastructure. The Public Works department has found that “If we build it, cyclists will come.” Our trends show that it takes about three years for a bikeway to mature before it sees consistent volumes. Cyclist volumes nearly doubled on City bikeways from 2008 to 2010, but have held steady since then.
THE RISE OF THE SHARROW
Four years ago, the first sharrow markings were placed on Second Street in Belmont Shore. Since then, sharrows have been added all over the City – from the bike boulevard on Vista Street, to retro row on 4th Street, and downtown on Pacific Avenue. When all of our bikeway volumes were analyzed by riders per hour, sharrows took the crown from bike paths, the reigning champion. In 2013, bikeways with sharrows became the most popular type of bike infrastructure in Long Beach. At any given hour, there are more cyclists following sharrows than there are on any of the City’s bike paths.
This shift from bike paths to sharrows represents a major change in the types of people who are biking in Long Beach. Cyclists on the city’s paths tend to be riding for recreation, while cyclists on sharrows are riding to and from work or local businesses.
This year’s bike count has shown that city infrastructure has matured, biking and walking are becoming more popular for errands and commutes. Biking is changing from from a predominantly recreational activity to a preferred method of transportation.
Women Riders are a significant minority, making up only 15 percent of the City’s cyclists.
Forty percent of riders in Long Beach choose not to wear a helmet.
While the percent of riders who ride on the sidewalk has stayed nearly constant during the history of the bike count, the percent of riders who use the sidewalk in business districts has been cut in half (from 36% to 15%) over the past 6 years. During community outreach for bicycle projects, one of the biggest concerns that the City hears involves pedestrians feeling uncomfortable sharing sidewalks with cyclists. Sharrows have been an effective tool for drawing a larger percentage of cyclists off of sidewalks and into the streets.
Overall, the results of the 2013 bike count show that cycling is becoming safer, mainstream method of transportation. Wrong way riding is the leading cause of bike accidents in Long Beach and the leading cause of bike deaths in Southern California. Therefore we have had a major push to reduce wrong way riding in the city. Wrong Way Riders have been on the decline in Long Beach. In 2008, count locations saw as many as 50% of their cyclists traveling the wrong way on the road. Since the City began its banner and sign campaign to encourage riders to ride with the flow of traffic, the number of wrong way riders has dropped below ten percent. Cyclists riding with the flow of traffic are far less likely to be involved in a right-hook collision, where the rider is hit by a right turning vehicle.
As we have seen from our survey, adding bike infrastructure, bike lanes, bike boulevards, sharrows, and separated lanes has a dramatic impact on the number of people who bicycle in the area. Over the next two years, we will be adding over 15 miles of new bike boulevards, as well as over 10 miles of bike lanes and sharrows. Most of this new infrastructure will come in the west, north and central parts of the City, which historically have had fewer bike amenities. As a result of this new infrastructure we anticipate seeing a significant increase in the number of people who bicycle on a regular basis in these parts of the City.
Thanks to everyone who helped collect data for our survey. This type of data is invaluable as we continue to build toward the most bike friendly city in the U.S.