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SDOT reports 20 percent decrease in cyclists, blames weather


Seattle Department of Transportation released its annual traffic report Tuesday, most significantly noting a 20 percent decrease in bicycle ridership.

RELATED: Seattle to kill 300 parking spots for bike lanes and no plan

SDOT’s 2018 traffic report notes a drop in bicyclists from 3.5 percent in 2016, down to 2.8 percent in 2017 (as a share of overall commuters in the city). That equates to a 20 percent fall in the number of bikes on the road over the past year. This follows with census data reported by The Seattle Times in September, noting an identical 2.8 percent number for commuters biking to work in 2017.

SDOT’s reasoning for the most recent decline?

“Bicycle ridership is influenced by weather, and the historic wet weather that lasted through April may have influenced ridership,” the report states.

That tracks with average rainfall through those months in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, the mean rainfall was just 5.03 inches. In 2017, the average was much higher, at 6.15 inches of rainfall per month from January through April.

The 2018 report comes after the 2017 traffic assessment which also reported declines in bicycle ridership: “Bicycle volume decreased by 2.6% from 2015 to 2016…” The 2016 report, however, reported a 14.5 percent increase in bike volume between 2014-15.

SDOT, bikes, and Seattle

SDOT remains optimistic, especially when it comes to the rise of bikeshares throughout the city. The full statement on bicycle ridership in Seattle further notes the influence of bikeshares in town:

2017 Census data indicate 2.8% of Seattle residents are using bicycles as their primary commute mode, down from 3.5% in 2016. Bicycle ridership is influenced by weather and the historic wet weather that lasted through April may have influenced ridership. Seattle residents may utilize bicycle on a portion of their commute trip as more travel options are readily available. Seattle’s bike share survey revealed that 33% of people are regularly using bike share to connect to public transit while 75% indicated that they have at some point used bike share to access transit.

Data provided by Lime seems to support this, with the company boasting one million rides in less than a year in Seattle.

The city’s overall decrease in bicycle ridership, though, comes during a period of relative unrest for those who argue against the “if you build it, cyclists will come” philosophy that has driven the addition of new bike lanes throughout the city.

Most recently, SDOT plans on removing roughly 300 parking spaces in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood in favor of a pair of bike lanes, situated on each side of Eastlake Avenue.

“The trade-off of removing parking has been a consideration since SDOT and Metro began the project,” SDOT’s Dawn Schellenberg told KTTH’s Jason Rantz in September. “Removing parking spaces allows us to build a continuous connection for people riding bikes between the University Bridge and downtown along Fairview Avenue North.”

You can read SDOT’s full 2018 traffic report here.

RELATED: Which bikeshare service will you use in Seattle?

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