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.

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