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Electronic counters monitoring increased cycling activity

New electronic counters installed in the roads on key Wellington traffic routes will provide more accurate and up-to-date monitoring of cycling patterns.

The installation of the new counters and improved provision of online data, will help with the planning of paths, lanes and other changes to make it safer and easier for more people to make some trips by bike.

Wellington City Council installed electronic counters on eight key routes earlier this year, and has just installed counters in another 11 locations. Three more will be installed early next year. The data collected is displayed on the Council website transportprojects.org.nz.

Wellington City Council’s Portfolio Leader for Walking and Cycling Councillor Sarah Free says it is early days yet.

“Over time, the Council wants to be able to track how the numbers change as safer facilities for people on bikes are developed, the population grows, and the city eventually has a connected cycle network.

“The counters will give us year-round 24/7 counts, showing seasonal variations, and what’s happening at different times of the day on different routes. We regularly get asked for this information so we are keen to make it readily available and easy to understand,” says Cr Free.

The Council will continue to collect travel information from manual counts carried out from 7.00am to 9.00am over one week a year in March. This count is done at 28 locations in the same week every year by people with clip-boards, regardless of the weather. It has provided useful information, and shows a gradual increase in numbers over the past 20 years, but doesn’t show how many people are using these routes at other times of the day and year.

The new electronic counters work in a similar way to the vehicle detection loops at signalised intersections that help activate traffic lights.

Thin cables that are laid into the road or path surface feed information to a logging chamber. This stores the count data, which determines and record the direction of travel, and is currently collected monthly.

The counters detect the electro-magnetic signature of bicycles, and distinguish them from other vehicles.

In most locations, only bikes are being counted. At this stage, the counters are not able to detect carbon fibre bikes.

In a few locations – typically where the path is shared or the footpath is right next to the bike path – pedestrians are also being counted.

Cr Free says the city’s population is expected to grow by up to 80,000 people by 2043 (from 200,000 to 280,000), so the Council needs to plan for the equivalent of five to six suburbs the size of Karori over the next 25 years.

“We know the city’s collective desire is to make Wellington an even more sustainable and attractive place to live and visit, because it is an aspiration that comes through strongly every time we ask people about what they value about the city and want for the future. “This, plus our goal to reduce emissions, and the huge health benefits associated with walking and cycling are some of the reasons we are prioritising these modes along with public transport,” she said.

Based on what has happened in other places around the world, Cr Free says we can expect to see more people biking once safe routes are in place. These need to connect suburbs with the central city, adjoining suburbs with each other, and provide safer access to neighbourhood facilities including sports fields and schools.

“At the moment most of our counters are on the road in lanes shared with general traffic but we are seeing an increase in the number of trips made by bike. We expect this to increase even more once there is better and safer bike infrastructure in place.”

The first electronic counters were installed in the following locations earlier this year:

  • Hutt Road (on the shared path and road)
  • Thorndon Quay (on the road in both directions)
  • Evans Bay Parade (on the shared path)
  • Airport subway
  • Aro Street (on the road)
  • Karori Tunnel (on the road)
  • Oriental Parade (on the shared path between the yacht club and Herd Street)
  • Ara Tawa (in two locations on the shared path)

New and upcoming installations in the following locations will have their data displayed online from early 2019:

  • Seatoun Tunnel (on the road)
  • Cobham Drive (on the bike and foot paths near Miramar cutting)
  • Mt Victoria Tunnel (on the shared path)
  • Oriental Parade (on the new bike path and on the road)
  • Crawford Road (on the new bike lane heading up and on the road heading downhill)
  • Tasman Street near Pukeahu National War Memorial Park (on the road)
  • Basin Reserve (at the southern entrance to the park)
  • Adelaide Road (on the road near Wakefield Park)
  • Brooklyn Road (on the road southbound)
  • Willis Street (on the road northbound)
  • Salamanca Road (on the road)
  • Glenmore Street (on the road)
  • Burma Road (on the road)
  • Willowbank Road (on the road)