Evolution of Cycle Counts from pre to post-COVID

Introduction

An analysis of cycle counts to/from Dublin city centre since 2019 shows the following:

  • Only 1 of the 5 locations analysed is counting more cyclists in 2022 as compared to 2019
  • Overall, weekday cycle counts in 2022 are down 31% when compared to 2019. Weekend cycle counts are however higher in 2022 than 2019.
  • For month of April 2022, weekday cycle counts are down 28% and weekend cycle counts are up 19% when compared with April 2019

There are cycling counters at 5 locations that can be classified as commuting corridors into Dublin city centre, each with data from January 2019 onwards – which makes them good candidates to assess trends in volumes of cycle commuters from before, during and after the COVID period.

Guild St. beside Samuel Beckett bridge would have been another good candidate to add to this list, however unfortunately the data stopped for this counter in the course of 2021.

The volume of cyclists counted at these 5 locations is shown in the table below. Note: the values for 2022 are for the first 4 months only.

The table below shows the distribution (%) across the 5 locations.

The contribution of Charleville Mall to the total, while small in absolute numbers, has increased more than 2 fold since 2019, meaning this is the only location of the 5 to have seen an increase in cyclists since 2019. This can mostly be attributed to the new cycling/walking bridge and linear park which connects the Royal Canal at Charleville Mall to Guild St. and the wider Docklands (opened August 2020).

Weekdays and Weekends

When splitting the cycle counts by weekday and weekend, it’s clear that an increase in COVID and post-COVID weekend cycling is masking an even bigger gulf between weekday cycling pre and post-COVID.

Weekend cycling in 2022 has been ahead of 2019 in 3 of the 4 months so far and by as much as 34% – as was the case for the month of January.

In April 2022, for example, the median daily weekend count was 4,729 Vs. 3,970 in April 2019 – an increase of 19%. The low weekend count for February 2022 can probably be accounted for by a number of weather alerts, including storm Eunice which arrived on Friday 18th February.

Weekday cycling counts in 2022 are down by 31% in the first 4 months of 2022.

It appears that office workers who have the opportunity to work remotely are continuing to do so in significant numbers. Workers in retail, hospitality and front line staff are possibly cycling in greater numbers in 2022 than in 2019. It’s unlikely the increase in weekend cycling can be fully accounted for by an increase in leisure cycling given the location of the counters.

The overall count at the 5 locations (weekday and weekend sum) is below:

A Look at Pedestrian & Cycle Counts in Blackrock

Blackrock Park and Rock Road – two routes running parallel to each other from Booterstown to Blackrock in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Dublin. The Blackrock Park route is a joy to cycle and walk: safe for all and beautifully landscaped. The Rock Road route is a time limited (Monday to Saturday 7AM to 7PM) painted cycle lane shared with buses, taxis and undertaking cars speeding to the next set of traffic lights. Yet, cycle counters show that the Rock Road route carries more cyclists than the Blackrock Park route. 

Looking at the data from March 2021 to March 2022 inclusive (the 13 months since the upgrade to Blackrock Park was completed), the cycle counters show that the Rock Road route is used more than the Blackrock Park route by a ratio of greater than 2:1 (491K Vs. 231K).

The Rock Road route is busier on weekdays than weekends while the opposite is true for Blackrock Park. Therein lies a probable explanation for the Rock Road’s relative popularity – it is preferred by commuting cyclists as it’s faster to get to/from Blackrock by staying on the road, even with a stop at the traffic lights for Blackrock Clinic.

Blackrock Park Pedestrian/Cycle Route (with Rock Road on the right of photo)

Cyclists must dismount to negotiate the infamous ‘half-duplex’ narrow passage that connects the southern end of Blackrock Park to Bath Place leading to the DART station, Blackrock village and the CMR (Coastal Mobility Route) to Sandycove (google maps). This can take time – particularly at peak hours.

Blackrock Park Pedestrian/Cycle Route towards Bath Place

A solution for the Bath Place bottleneck does not spring easily to mind, but hopefully one can be found to enable free flow transition between Blackrock Park and the CMR in particular. For cyclists heading towards Deansgrange, it probably makes sense to stay on the Rock Road/Blackrock bypass route.

Pedestrians

It is also interesting that the Blackrock Park route is much more popular with pedestrians than cyclists (475K Vs. 231K) for the 13 months. It’s likely that the vast majority of cyclists would trigger the cycle counter, but possible a significant percent of pedestrians would not trigger the pedestrian counter – so the difference could be understated. This is because pedestrians mostly congregate around the Blackrock village end of the park, away from the counter.

Blackrock Park Pedestrian/Cycle Route

Busy Days

Just how busy did these counters get in the last 13 months? Table below shows the top 5 busiest days.

A combination of COVID-19 lockdown, a spell of very good weather, the novelty of the (then) newly upgraded park and a public holiday contributed to St. Patrick’s Day 2021 yielding the highest counts in Blackrock Park.

Cycle Counts in the Wider Context

When Blackrock Park and Rock Road Cycle Counts are combined, they show a median of 1.7K cyclists on weekdays are passing the Rock Road/Booterstown DART station junction. This number amounts to approx. 60% the volume of weekday cyclists that are counted on Richmond St., Dublin 2 (linking city centre to Rathmines) which is currently the street with the highest cycle counts based on the data that is available on data.gov.ie (from Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown).

Active Travel Counts Workshop Feb 24th 2022 @ 10AM

Do you work with active travel datasets in Ireland? Join us for a 2-hour online workshop and help contribute to the development of a web app for analysis and visualization of active travel datasets.

Active Travel Counts successfully applied to the Open Data Unit/Open Data Engagement Fund for funding to run an online workshop in February 2022.

The intended audience of the workshop

  • local authorities/state bodies who have active travel data collection programs and would like to onboard their data to the web app
  • local authorities/state bodies that have use cases or requirements for active travel dataset analysis that they would like to see solved on the Active Travel Counts platform
  • campaign groups and individuals with an interest in this field are also welcome

The working itinerary for the workshop

Active Travel Counts (ATC) introduction10:00
Participants introduction10:05
ATC Project Overview (Datasets, Web App etc.)10:10
Dataset Onboarding Round Table 10:30
Enhancements to Web App, Data Analysis Use Cases etc. Round Table11:10
Workshop Wrap Up11:50

I am particularly interested in working with local authorities/state bodies that have datasets that they would like to onboard onto the Active Travel Counts platform. Also, anyone who is using the existing web app but would like to see it enhanced in some way – any ideas for new features or use cases are welcome.

What happens next?

All proposed enhancements will then be analysed after the workshop and an assessment will be done to determine which items can be implemented in the short term (2-3 months).

Optionally, a second workshop may be scheduled in May to wrap up the engagement and present what has been implemented.

Please email michael@active-travel-counts.ie to book or if you have any questions.

Some background. The objectives of the Active Travel Counts project are:

  • Enable self-service analytics of open data active travel datasets in Ireland via a single web app for anyone who requires it (local authorities, state bodies, campaign groups, members of the public etc.)
  • Onboard as many active travel datasets as possible to the web app. This includes cycle and pedestrian counts from cities, greenways, forest trails etc. across Ireland
  • Provide dataset analysis on an ongoing basis via blog posts, tweets etc.

Top 10 Cycle Counters 2021 in Dublin

The cycle counter with the highest count for 2021 was Richmond St., Dublin 2 with a total of 889k cyclists for the year, overtaking Grove Road, Dublin 6 which was the busiest counter for 2019 and 2020.

For reference, based on the available data, the most cyclists counted in one location in one year was Grove Road in 2019 with 1.19 million cyclists counted. This is the only time a count of over 1 million was recorded for a single location.

The Richmond St. counter was deployed in January 2021. The two counters that were deployed in Clontarf also made it into the top 10 for the year, despite only having partial data (they were deployed in May 2021).

Notes:

  • Analysis is based on Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown datasets only. Both are available on the Open Data Portal.
  • Only partial data (May onwards) was available for both Clontarf counters.

Busy Cycling Days 2021 in Dublin

We are in the dying days of 2021 and it’s likely the busiest cycling days of the year are behind us. With data available on Ireland’s Open Data Portal up to November, what were the busiest cycling days recorded this year?

The most cyclists recorded in one day (6,330) was on Sunday, May 30th at Pebble Beach on the Clontarf to Sutton cycle route. The same day was also the busiest for both James Larkin Road which is located near St. Annes Park (also on the Clontarf to Sutton cycle route) and for the People’s Park in Dún Laoghaire.

Not a single counter along a commuting corridor featured on the list (i.e. Grove Road or North Strand in Dublin City Council or Clonskeagh, N11 or Rock Road in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown). This can hardly be considered surprising given that commuting was practically non-existent this year in comparison to pre-COVID years. For comparison, based on the counters that were deployed in 2019, the busiest cycling day of that year was Grove Road on September 18th with 5,301 cyclists counted.

May 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) was another notable busy day across Dublin for cycling.

As a general rule, weekend cycling on the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown coastal mobility route accounted for most of the busiest cycling days of the year (14 of the top 25 days). All of the top 25 daily cycling counts occurred on segregated cycling routes along the coast either north or south of the Liffey.

Notes:

  • Only Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown have cycling count datasets available on the Open Data Portal. Fingal and South Dublin County Council also have cycling counters deployed but these datasets are not currently available.
  • Only partial data was available for the two Clontarf counters.