Survey Finds Big Bicycle Ridership Increase

  

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Redding bicycle ridership increased during this year’s Shasta County Health & Human Services Agency bike count.

The one-day surveillance of 22 intersections from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and again from 4 to 6 p.m. detected 781 bicycle riders – an increase of 80% from the 433 riders during the 2009 bike count.

Sara Sundquist, who coordinated the county’s bike count, said nice weather was one likely cause of the increase. During this year’s survey, September 21 to 23, the afternoon temperatures were 77 to 85 degrees. The mercury hit 100 during last year’s count. This year’s higher gasoline prices could also have contributed to the jump in pedal power, she said.

Cyclists and pedestrians were counted once in the morning and once in the afternoon at the 22 locations across town. The busiest bicycle locations were the Sacramento River bike path and Court Street (100 cyclist) and the south landing of the Sundial Bridge (82). The locations with the least bike traffic were South Bonneyview Drive and Bechelli Land (8) and Court Street and Rosaline Avenue (10).

The busiest locations for pedestrians were the south end of Sundial Bridge (345 walkers) and Hilltop Drive at the river trail above the arboretum loop (130 people). Three locations had only 8 pedestrians during the 5 1/2-hour period: Old Oregon Trail and Collyer Drive (the entrance to Shasta College), Auditorium Drive and Butte Street, and South Bonnyview at Bechelli. In all, 1,115 walkers were tallied.

The survey sites were chosen based on the Redding Bikeway Action Plan map, likely routes for cyclists, and the location of schools and major employers. In other words, these are the places where people are most likely to be traveling on foot or bicycle.

I was a volunteer counter at the north Hilltop and bike path intersection, above the arboretum, where I tallied 71 pedestrians and 31 cyclists over the course of two hours on a glorious afternoon. It was an interesting exercise for me, because I witnessed first-hand the importance of route connectivity. Nearly all cyclists who rode up the hill on the bike path would then continue riding on the sidewalk on the west side of Hilltop – no matter which direction they headed. Most other cyclists who approached the bike path from Hilltop or who were simply riding along Hilltop were also on the sidewalk.

You’re not supposed to pedal on the sidewalk, but I could see why people do here. There’s no bike lane striped on Hilltop, traffic moves quickly, and there is no crosswalk or signalized intersection nearby.

In fact, crossing the road at that location is a dicey proposition for both cyclists and pedestrians. I saw more than a few cyclists and pedestrians hustle across the street during a brief lull in the 45 mph automobile traffic.

I asked Redding Assistant Public Works Director Chuck Aukland about the situation. He said no bicycle advocacy group has complained, but he conceded the arrangement is not ideal and said he would ask a traffic engineer to investigate. “It’s something to be aware of, and to consider in the future,” Aukland said.

The location might be a candidate for a mid-block crosswalk, but Aukland said the city frowns on those because they give pedestrians a false sense of security. Moreover, at that location, Hilltop is wide and people drive quickly.

Still, cyclists riding against traffic is one of the leading factors in automobile-versus-cyclist crashes, Aukland said.

I’m glad I didn’t perform the tally in front of Shasta College, because it would have been too depressing. In 5 1/2 hours on a school day, there were 19 cyclists and 8 pedestrians – even though college students are as likely as anyone to use their feet and bikes for basic transportation. Sundquist said the numbers may increase in the future because of recent bike lane improvements on nearby College View Drive, and because of additional campus bike parking funded by a state grant.

“It will be interesting to track the area out by Shasta College more closely over the next few years,” she said. “Hopefully, numbers in that area will improve as the infrastructure is getting better.”

I’d like to share her optimism, but I think the real culprit is Shasta College’s remote location. The only real options for most students and college employees are driving and catching the bus.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and recreational bike rider. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at pauls.anewscafe@gmail.com.

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2 Responses »

  1. "You’re not supposed to pedal on the sidewalk, but I could see why people do here."

    It's commonly believed that bikes are prohibited from using sidewalks. However, this is a matter of local ordinance rather than State or Federal, and Redding's city ordinance does allow bikes to use sidewalks. I'm all for it. Obviously it can be safer for the cyclist to be out of traffic. The only concern is that fast-moving bikes coming up from behind will scare pedestrians who are also using the sidewalk, but that can be addressed by the basic good manners of the cyclist slowing down and calling out a warning.

  2. Unfortunately most cyclists I encounter on sidewalks are careless, dangerous and clueless about how to share the sidewalk. Education is badly needed. If you can't handle the traffic on the road, perhaps you shouldn't be riding a bike at all.

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