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Not So Fast, Cyclists. State Is Counting You For Annual Bike Count

Every year in January, volunteers fan out across King County to count the number of people who are homeless. In February, the great backyard bird count tracks birds and species all over the world.

On Thursday, it was Washington state’s bicycle count, when hundreds of people across the state stood on corners and counted cyclists, pedestrians and others using non-motorized method of transportation like in-line skates and skateboards.

One such volunteer partnership was at a Seattle street by 7 a.m. Teachers Fred Strong and Laura LeBlanc quickly got into a rhythm on the chilly fall morning: One male south, two female cyclists north, one male cyclist west without a helmet.

Strong and LeBlanc work at the Seattle Academy, a private school across the street from our spot. 

Strong views his role as helping his biking community and his neighborhood.

I’ve been bike commuting in Seattle since I moved here in 1990 and just love getting around by bike, so anything that’s really going to help get stats for what that means in terms of infrastructure and traffic flow over time, I’m happy to help out. It’s also a cool thing to be doing just as part of the neighborhoods.

LeBlanc teaches science and takes that passion outside the classroom. “This is fun for me because I’m a scientist, so anything in statistics and numbers is always interesting,” she said.

Jeff Aken is with Cascade Bicycle Club, and he explained the purpose of this project.

Really just getting a snapshot of who’s riding at 27 intersections in Seattle and a couple hundred across the state so we can count over time and see: Are more people bicycling or are more people walking, or less, over time and really understand that movement.

Wednesday marked the third and last day of the bike count. The program started with the state six years ago. In 2008, the Department of Transportation set a goal of doubling cyclists and pedestrians statewide by 2027.

WSDOT gives the Cascade Bicycle Club $10,000 every year to help organize the count. Aken explained the fun behind the task.

Usually you don’t see how many bikes are out on the road. But when you stand in one spot over a couple hours you see 10, 20, 30, 100 bikes depending on the intersection, combined with pedestrians, and so you realize that there are a lot of people that get around by bike.

In Seattle last year there were 8,000 cyclists counted one morning and about 15,000 one afternoon. But the count goes on all over the state – from tiny towns to cities.