By 2030, our goal is increasing bicycling fourfold. We collect and analyze data each year to understand our progress toward that goal.
Our long-term mobility plan, Go Boston 2030, envisions a city in a region where all residents have better and more equitable travel choices. We want efficient transportation networks that foster economic opportunity, where steps have been taken to prepare for climate change. The City of Boston is committed to making bike trips safe, comfortable, and convenient. This includes pursuing priority routes with bike lanes separated from moving vehicles and retrofitting neighborhood streets to slow traffic.
Helping more people choose biking also helps us to respond to important trends and challenges that Boston is facing:
- Supporting our population and job growth: More people are moving to Boston, and more people are working in Boston. Convenient and safe bicycling helps to ease the pressure on our streets and transit system.
- Easing income inequality: By supporting bicycling as a mode of transportation, we can give people a reliable, inexpensive way to reach educational opportunities and jobs.
- Climate resilience: More than a quarter of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation. Bicycling has a small impact on the environment and can help us reach our greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Annual Bike Count Data
2017 marked the second year of our automated bike count program. At 62 locations, we counted an average of nearly 40,000 bike trips per day. This number does not capture all bike trips in the City. The counted locations provide a representative sample of people biking.
In 2016, we began a new annual bicycle count program using automated technology. We collect data at more than 60 locations over a 48-hour period in late September and early October. Over time, we can use this data to better understand how many people are already biking in Boston, and what we can do to encourage more people to go by bike.
Benefits of Automated Counts
We made the switch to automated bike counts so that we could capture more, and better, data.
To identify best practices, we:
- researched available technologies
- learned about potential drawbacks, and
- reviewed count programs in several sister cities.
With the annual automated counts program, we are improving the quality of our data by:
- collecting information about trips that happen outside of peak commuting hours
- diversifying the types of locations that we count
- standardizing the dates and hours of our counts, year-over-year, and
- ensuring that we do our counts, regardless of bad weather.
In June, we piloted 24 locations and used a variety of counting technologies. We used video technology to execute the full program in September.
In previous years, teams of volunteers counted the number of people they saw on bikes at a variety of locations. These counts took place during peak commute times on one of several days in September. While this information has been helpful, we knew it had real limitations:
- Counts weren’t always done during the same day of the year, and didn’t align year-over-year.
- We missed everyone who was biking outside the peak commute times.
- Our volunteers, as steadfast as they were, could not be at every location each year.
- We also didn’t want to send volunteers out in very poor weather.
How we plan to use our data
Better data helps us in looking back and assessing our progress in promoting bicycling in Boston. We can better answer questions such as:
- Has ridership changed on key routes?
- Have we encouraged more people to ride by building a more connected network?
- Has the presence of new bike share stations influenced bike-riding on nearby streets?
Better data helps us do better in planning and designing our bike network.
We’ll be able to develop factors to understand how many people are biking on certain types of routes in certain contexts. (“If X people bike on this street today, we can expect Y people to bike on a similar street today.”) We can begin to normalize other counts taken at other times of the year. (“If X people ride here on a colder morning in November, we can expect Y people to ride here on a warmer evening in June.”)
We may also be able to project how many people would ride on new routes or different facilities as those projects are being planned and designed. (“If we add a separated bike lane here, we can expect Z more people to bike on this route.”)
Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts its American Community Survey (ACS). The survey is mailed to a representative sample of households and asks many detailed questions. It allows us to understand population, housing, workforce, and other demographic information more regularly than the decennial census sent to all households.
Respondents are asked how they usually got to work over the last week. Answers to this question allow us to understand trends in commuting patterns over time.
While the number of Bostonians commuting by any mode increased by 20% between 2007-2016, the number of people who “usually” bike to work increased 180% in the same time frame. This shows us that not only are more people biking in Boston, we’ve made some progress in shifting people towards biking.
percent increase over time
Bike share is public transportation by bike! The system is owned by the Cities of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and the Town of Brookline. Since the system launched in 2011, more than 6.5 million trips have been taken on our shared bikes. We provide monthly trip data on the system website.
In 2017, we invited people to analyze and visualize our trip data. People showed us how bikes are being used during different seasons and weather, and that more people seem to be cycling. Check out all the interesting projects: