There’s some fresh number crunching going on at UCLA. The counting isn’t happening within the halls of the department of mathematics, but rather outdoors, near a tree-lined campus entry point. Just in time for National Bike Month, the University has added a second automated bike counter.
The new device is situated on Westwood Plaza, a main portal to campus. Surveys, bike parking counts and Los Angeles Bike Coalition records estimate there are currently 3,000 riders putting pedal to the metal around campus.
Across the nation, in cities with a similar urban geography to Los Angeles such as Seattle, Portland and Boston, bike counters are proving essential to building support and improving conditions for the cycling community. Planners use the bike circulation numbers to justify bike infrastructure. Bike citizens get to experience a rush seeing their pedaling presence instantaneously noted on streets crowded with personal vehicles, buses and pedestrians.
At UCLA, bikes count. Our original cyclist monitoring system—the first such device ever installed in Southern California—was fitted in 2013 on the southern side of
Strathmore Plaza. Manufactured by Eco Counter, the device works through sensors in the pavement calibrated to only be triggered by bikes, which produce an electromagnetic signature. That pulse is then reflected on a digital screen, providing real-time information, tallying and displaying the daily and annual number of riders who cycle by.
The University also has a Bike Master Plan, which outlines efforts to improve cycling conditions and promote bicycling as a transportation mode on, to and from campus. Policies and programs to support and accommodate bicycling include construction of more bikeways, a signage plan, improved bicycle parking, financial incentives for bicycle use, and safety and education classes.
Bike counts pave the way for a more bike-friendly campus. The tallies help determine travel patterns, track trends over time, evaluate the effectiveness of current efforts to promote this mode of transportation, assess demand and prioritize improvement projects.
The counters may be a small part of a larger active transportation initiative, but the figures they calculate provide valuable information about patterns of cycling that can inform decision-making.
“The latest bike counter is a powerful statement," said UCLA Active Transportation Planner Jimmy Tran. "For riders, it’s a dynamic visual recognition that bicycling is valued at UCLA. The more we invest in bike infrastructure around campus, the more people want to bike. It’s a balancing effect.”