Eyes on the Street: Say Hello to NYC’s First Bike Counter at the Base of the Manhattan Bridge

The counter at Forsyth Plaza on the Manhattan side of the bridge displays the total number of cyclists that day and for the year to date.

DOT crews installing the bike counter at Forsyth Plaza this morning. Photo: NYC DOT
DOT crews installing the bike counter at Forsyth Plaza this morning. Photo: NYC DOT

At last, New York City cyclists know they count. DOT crews installed this sleek bike counter display on the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge this morning.

The bike counters are a very public way to convey the volume of cycling activity, which can be hard for some people to appreciate because bikes take up so much less space than cars. San Francisco has had one on Market Street for several years. Copenhagen has 20 of them.

Two years ago, Bahij Chancey set up on the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge and manually counted passing cyclists. His goal was to get the city to put in bike “totems” on every East River bridge. Over the course of the day, he counted 5,589 crossings.

“A lot of criticism from community boards focuses on the idea that cycling is a seasonal mode of transportation,” Chancey told AMNY. “The counter is a great way to incentivize cycling — for people to see the numbers of rides and compare it to car traffic — and to establish it as a viable, quick, cheap commuting option that people use all year around.”

DOT’s automated counters have been recording bike trips on the East River bridges since 2013, but the stats aren’t accessible to the public on the city’s open data portal. Instead DOT folds them into periodic reports on cycling activity.

The counter is no substitute for open data, but it’s a welcome sight.

So far, on a hot day when lots of folks are likely to be opting for air-conditioned trains, DOT had counted more than 2,200 bike crossings as of 3:43 p.m.

  • Richard Miller

    Just came back from London where they have these on the bicycle superhighway. Felt great to pass one and learn that I was the 750,834th person on a bike to pass.

  • Top picture looks like the Iwo Jima memorial, with the Marines raising the flag. Good job, Streetsblog!

  • Larry Littlefield

    “So far, on a hot day when lots of folks are likely to be opting for air-conditioned trains…”

    Anyone doing so is failing to account for the risk of being stuck on a crush-loaded (passengers touching) train with no air conditioning due to a power failure for a long period of time. I don’t do well with heat, crowding, and lack of oxygen, and if that ever happened to me, they’d take me out on a stretcher.

    The bike ride was fine. Spend time in the environment and you acclimate to it. Limit your time in an artificial environment and you become dependent on it.

  • carma

    on this hot day. i decided to bike into work via citibike from brooklyn. as im going up smith st. i cant help but notice there is a lot more cyclists than cars. it’ll certainly be interesting to see cycle counts. interestingly enough as im up the brooklyn bridge, a major auto accident on the manhattan bound span clogging up traffic to a standstill, while i enjoy a gentle uphill climb..

  • RC-NYC

    Great observation!!

  • AMH

    Limit your time in an artificial environment LEST you become dependent on it?

  • AMH

    This is great! What gets measured gets planned for, so this is no small thing!

  • Joe Linton

    That’s what I was thinking! Great that it includes both Iwo Jima and a cyclist

  • Larry Littlefield

    Right.

  • 8FH

    I was #248! It was really great to see the counter. Does anyone know what time of day it resets? Midnight?

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