Checked out the bike counter now operational on the northwest bike lane at Burrard and Cornwall. Great to see it!
Note the text on it: “Bike trips on both east and west sides of the Burrard Bridge.”  I like this: it’s a total for the Burrard Bridge. Excellent thinking.
So, in the middle of the third day of 2015, we have a total of 2,255 counted bike trips.

Grow, baby, grow.




  1. I hope that’s not a piece of taxpayer-funded infrastructure. I can’t imagine why such a thing would be needed – we are not such idiots that we can’t tell whether the bike lane is used or not – especially those of us who are using it. Collectively, we are deemed capable, as a population, of assessing the suitability of every other amenity that is built – and, one would infer, behaving and voting accordingly. We are not provided with a count of pedestrian trips across the Lion’s Gate Bridge, for example, to assess whether a sidewalk is really needed there. We are not provided with a counter of car trips over the Granville Bridge, to assess whether the car lanes are really needed on it. Nor of bus passengers transported via the dedicated bus lanes on various downtown streets.
    The only discernible purpose of this counter is political, to convince voters that the policies of Vision Vancouver are good for us. As such, this is a piece of political advertising, and it should be paid for by Vision Vancouver.

    1. Karin, I clicked on your link and saw your blog. Lots of political posts. And each one had three counters on it, with public displays, for tweets, likes, and Google +. 😉

    2. No, we’re not capable of telling at a glance if something is used or not. It’s been noticed in other cities as well as this one that just glancing over at a cycling facility for a few seconds results in an inaccurate estimation of usage.
      Some might think that such a device is unnecessary since the city publishes data from the under path counters eventually but I think this is important. Hopefully it will be visible from within a car when someone drives by. If it corrects some peoples’ wrong ideas of cycle usage then it’ll be worth it.

      Anecdotally, I was going by Science World last summer and thinking to myself that there weren’t many people out cycling on such a nice day, then I got to the bike counter and it was over 8000 for that day. I couldn’t have imagined it. I hit a low time going by I guess.

      Also encouraging and promoting cycling was not invented by the Vision party. It’s been a Vancouver policy since the late 1990s, supported by many parties. They were not even the first ones to introduce cycle infrastructure in this city.

    3. Part of Vision’s mandate is to encourage alternatives to driving. The counter shows people that cycling is a viable alternative that is practiced by lots of people – that it’s not just some sort of “elite class” or “cycle nuts” that use it. It supports the strategy to prioritize other modes of transit and therefore is a worthwhile expenditure, IMHO.

      1. Ah yes, combatting elitism by creating an imaginary mob and fostering mob mentality. That’s always worked well.
        But that doesn’t mean it’s good public spending.

        The counter represents elite cycling and cycle nuts by definition – it’s on the west side, and on a bike route that enjoys heavy recreational use.
        Come to the DTES side sometime, where bikes (mostly stolen) are the primary mode of transportation for people who are counted only when they commit crimes, get hurt, or sleep outside. And then only once per year.
        When a counter like this is installed on the 100 block east Hastings, then you can talk about non-elitism.

        This billboard counter is a form of mind control, not traffic engineering. If engineers need counts, they can install an unobtrusive little black box or have them sent directly to their inbox.

        1. …as they do when they install hose counters on streets to count car trips. Car trip counts are not advertised on the spot. The expenditure of what must be a good few thousand dollars to advertise bike trip counts can have only a political purpose.

        2. Bike counters as a form of mind control, eh?

          Don’t worry, Karin, all you have to do is wrap your bike helmet in tin foil. It renders one impervious to the nefarious Bike Lobby’s mind-controlling moonbeams that emanate from these sinister bike counters.

    4. To get more people cycling, you do need improved infrastructure. To get even more people cycling, the most cost effective way is through promotion and encouragement. TransLink has a huge encouragement and promotion campaign through their TravelSmart program. City of Vancouver is wasting taxpayer dollars by not doing enough promotion of cycling. This counter is a good start, but as a taxpayer I would like to see way more promotion of the great cycling facilities we already have.

      It gives me a little thrill every time I add my ride to the Science World counter. Now I will get the same thrill when I ride over the Burrard Bridge.

  2. Actually, I think in protest I will stop riding over the Burrard Bridge, and preferentially drive when I have a trip in that direction. I don’t want my bike riding to become someone’s political currency.

    1. I long for the old days when my bike riding wasn’t considered political as well. Remember back then?

      1. Right, and remember how the first thing done to facilitate cycling and decide what cycling infrastructure to build was to install bike trip billboard counters? Not. The city likely counted bike trips, but did so for engineering purposes to decide where to build infrastructure.
        Counting bike trips on an already existing route has no discernible engineering or public infrastructure purpose except to advertise the party that built it. Kind of like those highway improvement project signs – except they’re cheaper, and they’re gone once the project is finished. After it’s built, the infrastructure should speak for itself.

        1. I agree in a way. Hopefully someday installing cycling infrastructure will just be considered “standard” and not something that has to have politics involved. Just like putting in a sidewalk where there wasn’t one before.

          I did a bit of research into just what the purpose of public bike counters are and found these two webpages.
          This one (calling them “barometers”) states the purpose as – “shows the wider public how numerous cyclists are in a city and thus raises awareness of cycling as a serious transport mode.”

          This one says – “encourage more people to ride by showing how many are using it.”

          So, yes, they are for the purpose of publicity.

  3. Very glad to see the new counter in service, and I look forward to seeing similar counters on other routes. These counters provide more detailed information than the monthly reports on the CoV web site, and save sending multiple requests to the City for the details. That has to be cheaper for the traffic engineers. I have noticed with the Science World counter that many people make a note of their number each time they pass; the displays appear to be welcomed by many users.

    If this is considered a Vision plot, I wonder how they got similar displays into Seattle, Portland, and so many other cities.

  4. Yay!
    I hope that someone puts a sign on the eastbound direction pointing to where the counter is (so that we make sure we ride over it).
    Anyone up to the task?

  5. Perogy Pogey, thanks for the doing the work that I was about to embark on as I read this thread! There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that visual cues make a difference to behaviour change. This would be a prime motivator for that sign, and a strong reason why they are used increasingly around the world. Even here, in Australia! Great post, Price Tags.

  6. I had a look back at the 2040 Transportation Plan (adopted Oct 31 2012, voted on by all three parties represented on council). Under the section titled Directions, there is a section on Encouragement, Education, and Enforcement. There is specific mention made of installing bicycle counter displays. Interesting. And all parties voted for it. Good for them. The current Vision council ran on a platform of implementing the Transportation 2040 Plan, and when polled about bicycle infrastructure specifically, during the campaign, they referenced that plan. And here we are, implementing it. We should actually be glad, IMO, when governments do exactly what they said they were going to do. Congratulations to all involved.

  7. Nice post, Jeff. It is alternately amusing and appalling that politicians attract criticism (including, Lord love us, angry boycotts) for doing exactly what they said they would do prior to an election. In this case, their actions are drawn from a major plan which was approved by all councilors from all parties. So this criticism is even less rational, but appears nonetheless.

    In my mind, I’m calling it a tempest in a teapot.

    1. Jeff’s account of the history of the plan is indeed an interesting and valid point, but it does not render criticism or protest (or boycott) irrational. Even if all voters knew that this specific item was in the plan and knew who voted for it, the ballot box vote is a blunt instrument that does not constitute a muzzle to be worn, by all who voted, for the 28 years the plan covers regarding everything in it. If it does, it’s a compelling reason not to vote in future elections, if only those who do not vote retain any right to protest.

      Second, each successive council is legally responsible for its own actions, and is not obligated to just sheep-ily implement everything that preceding councils decided. Even if the same people are in office, their fiduciary duty is a matter of the present, and cannot be offloaded on the basis of decisions made during a previous mandate. If this were the case, it would be another compelling reason not to bother voting, since you are suggesting that all councils from October 2012 to November 2040 will be irrelevant. Fact is, if someone considers this an infringement of a privacy or charter right or some other form of governance malfeasance, and litigates accordingly, this council is accountable for its decision, not the council of 2012.

      It is relevant that Vision was elected on the plan, and that these propaganda machines were in the plan, and I agree that politicians who line up “do” and “say” are not necessarily a bad thing. Except that you can promise something that is outright illegal, and get voted in for it by an electorate that doesn’t know that – but that still doesn’t make it legal.

      We go willingly to our fate of “blue planet in green chains,” it seems. One can only protect the environment if one controls people, and there is something very 1984ish about being counted and then held up to your fellow citizens as an exemplary citizen, whether by name or not – while next to you, people who drive or walk across the bridge are not deemed worthy of being counted. It’s creepy, and the people who love it would, I suspect, be the first to protest if it came at them from a direction they were not that thrilled about.

      We are all little tyrants at heart, aren’t we, and not very good at perceiving general principles through the lenses of our biases.

      1. This is an absurd overreaction, and I find it odd that you continue to name Vision as evil conspirators despite the fact that all parties voted in favour of the plan with specific mention of installing counters.

        I really don’t see how it is not the mandate of the city, as spelled out in the transportation hierarchy, to promote the use of cycling infrastructure built by the city. That’s the goal here. Great. Let’s move on.

      2. Yes, of course we can change our minds. I agree. However, we haven’t. The people that don’t like this are very few.
        And the other point about counting other modes. That’s a good idea too. They are counted but not publicly displayed like this. There is a reason that cycling is now encouraged, it has been artificially suppressed for decades and has yet to finish bouncing back to it’s natural level from that.

  8. Since there would have to be 2 sensors – one for northbound and one for southbound, it’s too bad they didn’t “splurge” for another LED display and separated the northbound and southbound trips.
    I know that whenever I jog around False Creek, I know I go clockwise (coming down the stairs at the north end of the bridge instead of up them).
    I wonder if recreational cyclists would go one way or the other – I think clockwise (northbound) would have easier connections to the seawall.

    1. I think it’s probably the opposite for recreational cyclists (CCW through downtown), since a lot of people do Stanley Park Drive which is one way, which then connects to Beach, then south over the bridge.

  9. Bike counters are great. Here in Melbourne we now have two. The first is similar to yours on one of our main bike paths, the Capital City Trail, at the corner of Nicholson and Park Sts. It was funded by the local bicycle store and the local government, Moreland City Council. It has recorded just under 1 million cyclists on the path in its first year of operation!

    That is a fabulous and immediate tool to use for promoting cycling and justifying spending on bike paths. It totally debunks the common complaint “we put in bike paths and nobody uses them”.

    Our second is on the heavily utilised St Georges Rd path and was funded by Darebin City Council and the local BUG. This one is solar powered, and quite a bit smaller than the other.

    1. Oh and I meant to say, the counter at Nicholson St is aligned so that it displays for cyclists on the path, but it also displays to the car traffic coming up Nicholson. That is instant advocacy right there.

      1. Exactly, johnhandley. It’s advocacy. Not education. Not information. And it’s elitist: a sign of the new caste system: cyclists are better than drivers. No one should be forced to pay for that.
        What we do every day is a political statement – when I rode on the roadway across the Burrard Bridge in 1984, which I did (as well as on UBC Blvd, which used to be 2 lanes of traffic), it was a political statement. It worked. We now have infrastructure. The USE of the infrastructure is now also a political statement: bike routes, dog parks, skateboard parks, or what have you. But it is OUR OWN political statement.
        We certainly can and should be counted when we use the infrastructure. But only for administrative purposes. No one else has a right to use my actions as THEIR political statement, and that is the core problem here.
        I won’t be used as a stick to hit my fellow citizens with (or for that matter myself when I drive).

        1. Oh, I think I get where you’re coming from now. You interpret this as an insult to drivers.
          Is that what you mean?

          1. Thanks for asking, Perogy Pogey. It’s more complicated than that – a matter of civil liberties and privacy combined with a desire to reduce rather than increase political polarization. And more.
            I posted because I hoped for a discussion that would help to better define why I felt so violated by the idea of being counted and posted as a statistic.
            That hope has not been realized. You’re the only person among the commenters who’s shown a vestige of curiosity or flexibility in your viewpoint (for which, thank you again), but under the torrent of abuse from zealots a productive conversation really can’t get much traction.

            Every successful movement faces the challenge of moderating as it grows. Indeed, the price of growth in popularity has to be a reduction in purism. One cannot attract the mainstream without attracting moderate people, simply because most people ARE moderate on any given issue. So the flip side of expanding cycling is that the cycling community is no longer made up primarily of purists. There are no longer “drivers” and “cyclists” who form distinct political factions. There are people who ride sometimes, and drive sometimes. Anything that vilifies one group while idealizing the other simply causes polarization and slows the real advances that the movement can make overall. It pushes opponents to the margins and leads to THEM becoming zealots, who in their turn start a movement, which grows and eventually attracts more moderates to the point it can elect its preferred candidates… well, you get the picture. Bickering tribalism isn’t productive.

            And neither is this sign.

          2. I like what your saying here. I agree that extremism is no longer necessary and counterproductive. Being polarized isn’t necessary either and won’t accomplish much. In my experience I haven’t encountered any purist cyclists for at least 6 or 7 years now. The people I’m now meeting who are cycling are just doing it to accomplish a task. It doesn’t seem to be an identity to them. The same with motorists, there certainly are many who see their car as their identity and love their cars and what it allows them to do but most people drive to get something done or to get somewhere. I don’t see cars per se as being a problem. I see the problem being too many of them and their being forced on us as the only choice when they’re not the most appropriate tool for the job.
            But much of the polarization can be blamed on the media who seem to want to ignore all the moderate people and only interview the extremists. (They do that with all topics so nothing unique to transportation.)
            I don’t necessarily agree though that this counter is polarizing but I really don’t have much of an opinion on it either way. It cost some of my taxes but I’d rather it go to that than some politician’s cocktail. And I see nothing wrong with a government advocating for something they see as a common good.
            And I disagree that cyclists are now some sort of higher caste. I still see them as a class that’s still for the most part left out of the system. (Even with the few things there are now.)

            And yeah, it’s hard to have polite discussion on internet forums a lot of the time.

        2. “And it’s elitist: a sign of the new caste system: cyclists are better than drivers.”

          Could you be a dear and remind the drivers on the road that I’m better than them? It doesn’t seem to stop them from honking at me when I have the right of way.

  10. I see we’ve achieved maximum narrowness and there is no reply option to Perogy Pogey directly, so I’m back on the main list with my last comment (I promise).
    I think you might be on to something with the issue of identity. I agree that we mostly are getting more pragmatic and flexible about our transportation – ironically, that is likely a product of better infrastructure.
    In that regard I think the sign is a step backwards; a classic case where a council should have evaluated present conditions before acting on a decision made in the past – the sign is designed to leverage identity politics, just as people are moving beyond them.
    Mind you there are still lifestyle cyclists, and they do push to the fore, for example in planning the renovation of Commercial Drive.
    And polarization sells in media; quite true, predisposing against making connections between identity groups. In light of that, thank you so much for engaging productively 🙂

    1. You’re welcome. My initial reaction to your first comment was to dismiss you as yet another anti-cyclist ranter but then reading more I realized that you’re more nuanced than that in your position. It’s good that you clarified more and wrote more precisely just how this counter rubs you the wrong way.
      Personally I am not interested in working towards a car-free utopia (and I realize that nobody is actually proposing this) rather the future that I want to see is just to have cycling included as a normal part of everywhere movement happens (in addition to the other modes). Then we can each decide what makes sense at that time for a particular trip.
      I’m not interested in any one “side” winning. (I don’t believe there are sides anyway.) What I want to see is that we can all do what we have to do without much hassle and without bothering others. And I want the design to be based on evidence and not opinion, impressions, bogus “studies” made by industries or party politics.
      Early adopters of anything will be overly enthusiastic and zealous. I guess that can be expected (and probably is necessary at first.) It’s now close to being time to go from there to another level. Fortunately I see that happening. Recently I’ve been meeting people that have now included some cycling into their lives that had not done so since they were kids. They don’t consider themselves to be cyclists no matter how often they do it. They don’t even know about the past “bike culture” or the political actions that were made in the past. They only see the now and they like it and are using it.

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