Monday 15 July 2019

Counting the cost of the passing bicycles

Cian Ginty and Fiona Ellis

AN automatic bicycle-counting device which cost nearly €20,000 is unable to keep track of all the cyclists which pass it.

So now the local authority is considering using human counters alongside the machine -- which is a permanent fixture -- so they can gather more accurate results.

The costly machine is located at the N11 at UCD, near the junction with Foster's Avenue in Dublin, and it began operating on January 1.

It is understood the machine, built by the Elmore Group, cost €19,800 and it counts bicycles that pass by on the adjacent cycle track.

However, it can't count those cyclists that opt to cycle in the bus lane, and therefore cannot give accurate results of the number of passing cyclists.

"The counter operates using an electromagnetic loop detector system.

"When the bike passes over the loop, it detects and counts the cyclist, therefore if the counter was set up in the bus lane it would detect buses and taxis, providing inaccurate results," said Conor Geraghty, assistant engineer with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

To gather an accurate picture, the traffic department is considering using human counters to count the same area, to see if the results gathered by the machine are representative.

Ciaran Fallon, the cycle officer at Dublin City Council, said around 17,000 cyclists have passed the counter this year, although he said that because of start-up glitches, the real figure is higher. It is unknown how many cyclists use the bus lane.

"It's difficult to count cyclists, and it's difficult to make arguments for cycling unless you have solid numbers. It's like everything else, if it's not counted and managed it does not factor into the decision making process," he said.

Despite the extra cost involved with having to correlate the data by using human counters, local authorities are still planning to roll out more bicycle-counting machines across Dublin city.

"The National Transport Authority has requested both Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and Dublin City Council to trial cycle counters. We will analyse their performance and outputs, and propose an overall cycle counting scheme in due course," said NTA spokesman Michael Aherne.

He added that each council must tender for their own machines.

Dr Mike McKillen, chairman of, the umbrella body for all the cycling campaigns in the country, said there is a huge cost involved in counting traffic, whether it is cars or bicycles.

His solution to the machine counting incorrectly is to employ human counters.

Although he admits that in the current economic climate, this would not be the most cost-effective solution. "A machine is far cheaper in the long run, but you can't have it every way."

However, he welcomes the fact that cyclists are being counted, as it makes sure they are recognised as road users.

"Bikes are part of traffic. Cyclists would say if you don't count us, we don't count."

Irish Independent

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