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Originally published May 18, 2012 at 5:46 AM | Page modified May 18, 2012 at 10:53 AM

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Seattle to get first electronic bicycle counter

Seattle is about to receive its first electronic cycle counter, to illustrate in lights how many people ride across the Fremont Bridge.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

YouTube: Electronic bicycle counter in use in Copenhangen

Video posted by YouTube user DK-Update

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Lets also get some counters to count how many cyclists run red lights, don't stop for... MORE
lol i dont care if we count bikes. I just want them to learn how to use the bike lane... MORE
They should also put up a counter to show the number of cars that cross the bridge. (I... MORE

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After bicyclists in Fremont pass the statue of Lenin, the Troll, or the oft-decorated Waiting for the Interurban sculpture, they'll arrive at yet another landmark starting this summer.

Seattle is about to receive its first electronic cycle counter, to illustrate in lights how many people ride across the Fremont Bridge.

The black-and-gray, 7 ½-foot high pillar, to be installed in July near the drawspan, will face travelers heading downtown.

One number will tally the bike rides each day, while another will show how many passed for the year to date. Magnetic loops, just below the surface of the ped-bike paths, will record bicycle trips on both flanks of the bridge.

Bike advocates hope the display, on perhaps the busiest bike-commute route in the city, will inspire a sense of community and maybe encourage people to ride more often.

A grant from the Mark & Susan Torrance Foundation is funding the $20,000 device and installation, said Chuck Ayers, executive director of Cascade Bicycle Club.

The project was to be announced Friday morning during a National Bike-to-Work Day rally at City Hall.

The Eco-Totem brand counter to be installed in Seattle will resemble three counters in Copenhagen, as seen by thousands of cycling enthusiasts in online videos.

Other display counters are to be installed this year in Montreal, Portland, and possibly Ottawa, said Alex Belhassen, technical sales consultant in Montreal for the France-based Eco-Counter company. The firm has non-display counters in 28 states and six Canadian provinces, he said. Vancouver, B.C., has placed loops in its Burrard Bridge, to measure the effectiveness of converting one car lane into a bikeway in 2009.

Seattle predicts that counts could surpass 900,000 trips the first full year at the Fremont Bridge.

"If we go over 1 million, that's great, we'll get a new face on the counter and reprogram it, for $500," said Craig Moore, the Seattle Department of Transportation's lead staffer on the counter project.

Ayers said he hopes three to five counters will eventually be installed around Seattle. The city has no such plans at this point, Moore said.

Last year on Bike-to-Work Day, Cascade's volunteers counted 1,750 morning commute trips at the Fremont Bridge.

The Torrance Foundation previously paid for a carbon counter that records levels of greenhouse gas and displays data in the Pacific Science Center. The foundation approached Cascade with the idea of a counter in Fremont, said Ayers.

Bicycle traffic — clothed or otherwise (for the Solstice Parade) — has long been a familiar sight in Fremont, where Mayor Mike McGinn frequently rides. Nonetheless, "people don't really have an idea how many people are riding," Ayers insists.

The new display might inspire people to ride, or inspire businesses to market more to bicyclists, said Ayers. He said it would be nice if the counts lend political momentum to build better cycling facilities, but on the other hand, Ayers said the city already takes counts of how many people ride.

Moore said more precise counts will help SDOT become more data-driven in future decisions.

SDOT wouldn't predict whether the experience of being counted will boost ridership.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @mikelindblom.

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