Chart of the Day: Saint Paul Bike Traffic Before and After Bike Lanes

“There aren’t enough bikes here to justify a bike lane…”

I hear some variation of that line with almost every bike project, no matter where it’s located. Especially for people that rarely ride bicycles, it can be a pretty convincing argument!

But it’s not that simple. Bicycling is deeply connected to street design, and (as Kevin Costner’s ghost father once said) “if you build it, they will come.”

The latest Saint Paul bike/ped traffic counts are out this week, and (via the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition’s twitter) biking and walking are at a five-year high. And that goes more-than-double for streets with new bike lanes.

Check out the before-and-after counts for the city’s new bike projects:

Of particular note are the big increases on the new Cleveland Avenue bike lane. Diligent readers of this website might recall that the Cleveland lane was a bit controversial, and there was much wringing of hands about whether the lane would be safe or well-trafficked.

Well, the new lane turns out to be popular, and (in my opinion) bike traffic there will only grow as more people discover and experience it.

The report has this to say about the count changes at these locations:

To measure changes in bicycle traffic following the implementation of bicycle facilities, five screenlines were counted before and after the implementation of new bicycle lanes in 2015 and 2016. The counts reflect observed 4 PM – 6 PM peak hour bicycle traffic. The screenlines on Cleveland Avenue, Como Avenue, and Front Avenue were counted multiple times. All locations recorded an increase in bicycle traffic following the installation of bike lanes. Public Works will continue to collect bicycle and pedestrian traffic data at these locations to monitor changes over time, and will explore additional data collection methods to extend the duration of future count periods.

That’s a very city-engineer-speak way of saying that, if you build it, they will come. It’s nice to have data that confirms one’s vague hopes and intuition.

Check out the rest of the bike count report here.

10 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Saint Paul Bike Traffic Before and After Bike Lanes

  1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    Pretty sure this still won’t be persuasive to anyone who does not want to believe. Goal posts will be moved.

  2. karen

    I still contend that reducing car traffic via biking infrastructure, for much of America, is much more attainable goal than making things walkable. Even in our cities, the single-family house neighborhoods are to spread out to provide a lot of walkable destinations, but biking can get you a lot of places in America in 15-30 minutes, often not much slower than cars.

    For me, a non-biking St. Paulite for much of my adult life, having moved to area of St. Paul near Mpls, the fact that I can get to many destinations on dedicated bike paths or at least very nice painted bike lanes has made all the difference.

  3. Karen

    Just wondering – do we have any idea what, say the combined cost of infrastructure for each car is in an average metro area like the Twin Cities. I know we have some idea how much parking spaces each car requires on average. I’m sure there is a way to figure how many lane miles we need per car.

    Given that each additional bike trip makes some dent in car traffic and parking need outside of residence (at employer, at stores etc) I wonder what the cost comparison between reducing need for a car by putting in bike infrastructure is compared to cost of increasing roads/parking for each additional car.

      1. Karen Nelson

        That’s a great start but still doesn’t a count for cost of street parking, parking lots etc.

        Cars and building for cars is expensive. Parking lots reduce property tax revenues.

  4. Karen Nelson

    Yes, thanks Bill L. You are such an asset to our transportation knowledge, thanks for you articles#

  5. Neil Westergaard

    Suggest that we should look at the actual numbers, not the percentages. The actual numbers of bicyclists are quite small. So there are 60 riders now and before there were 20 or 30. And how many of those “new” riders aren’t really new….they were previously just taking other routes? What’s the aggregate increase in the number of cyclists in the city? I bet it’s not very many.

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