Flashback Friday: Yes, there are people who cycle in Christchurch – plenty!

This week there has been a little bit of controversy with the claim that cycling numbers in the city had dropped, with the inevitable resulting grumbles about money-wasting from the naysayers. Turned out of course that it was a glitch in the numbers (especially from one major count site), and in fact many sites around Christchurch captured new record high counts during February. A key tool in monitoring this cycle count information is the Council’s wonderful SmartView tool, and it was only about 5 years ago that this went live, as this blog from March 2018 explains…

Anytime that cycleways are discussed around Christchurch, it doesn’t take long before someone pipes up and claims that they never see any (or many) people using the new or previous cycleways. I always wonder just when, where and how they are looking because, from my perspective, I continue to see a steady stream of people biking around the city. As I’ve also pointed out before, there is also often an optical illusion between what you see and how many people are actually riding during a typical day.

See; no-one ever uses these cycleways…

A philosophical debate with people about different opinions of cycling usage isn’t much help though if you’re just coming from differences of perception. What’s more useful is actual counts of cycling numbers from various locations around the city. While people like our friend Robert can do manual surveys at various places, I don’t imagine that he wants to stand somewhere 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, to collect data over a complete time period. That’s where automated cycle counts come into play.

There are two main ways that cycle numbers are automatically captured in Christchurch:

  • Permanent inductive loops are installed on cycleways, either as the detector for an approach to signals, or just as a standalone counter. Essentially these act as metal detectors, picking up the signal created by a bicycle passing over them (generally they can be smart enough to distinguish the “signature” of a bike from other metal objects passing over them too). You might see them as a set of rectangles cut into the cycleway surface, where inductive wires are laid. More recent ones used on the new cycleways often feature a diamond pattern instead.
An example of an ‘Eco-Counter’ on a cycle path
  • Other sites may be temporarily counted every year or so using a set of soft rubber tubes across the cycle route. The weight of the bike creates an air pulse that is registered; two tubes enable the presence and speed of bikes to be identified (and differentiated from anything else that passes over the tubes). You may have seen these tubes out and about recently on many streets; unfortunately some people prefer to avoid riding over them (especially if the tubes are a bit short). Moral of the story: if you want cycling to count, you need to ride over the detectors!
Rubber tubes to count riders – but are they far enough out?

OK, so having collected this data, when can we see it? Apart from those of us who know a Council staffer or two who could pass on some data, getting up-to-date cycle counts for Christchurch has been rather tricky. Some traffic count data (including bikes) is available on the CCC website, but it’s a bit clunky and varies as to its currency.

Fortunately now there’s an easier way to see cycle counts around the city, using CCC’s new SmartView website (hoping this will be made into an app some time too). Amongst the many layers of information in this very useful tool, is information about the average weekly bike counts at key count sites (not entirely sure why they show weekly counts rather than just average daily counts, which would be easier to comprehend). So now we can see for example that both the Uni-Cycle through North Hagley Park and the Little River Link in South Hagley Park saw over 7000 riders in the last week (or >1000 per day). For anyone who wants to use the data for their own application, there’s even a live feed.

Weekly cycle counts showing circled in CCC SmartView

Maybe in due course, we might also see a live “totem pole” display along one of the cycleways, so that everyone can see immediately how many people are riding there. But at least for now you have a resource that you can point to when someone says “no-one ever cycles in Christchurch”

Have you used the new SmartView site yet?

1 thought on “Flashback Friday: Yes, there are people who cycle in Christchurch – plenty!”

  1. Kia Ora Lennyboy,
    Thank you for the link to the SmartView website. It’s a great source of UpToDate cycle numbers.
    There is a cycle count Totem Pole at the Antigua Cycle/Pedestrian bridge. Fun see your count being added after a slight lag.
    Warm regards Bill G 🙂

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