Tilikum Crossing already seems to be boosting bike traffic (for real this time)

Tilikum Crossing already seems to be boosting bike traffic (for real this time)

Sunday Parkways September 2015-5.jpg

Crossing Tilikum.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Two months ago, we made an unfortunate error: We ran a post observing that the new Tilikum Crossing was simultaneously boosting bike traffic and reducing bike congestion on the Hawthorne Bridge sidewalks.

Trouble was, the source of our data — the Hawthorne Bridge’s automated bike counter — had been malfunctioning, so the findings were bogus.

Now the better data has arrived … and it shows pretty much the same thing that the fake data had seemed to.

Combined bike traffic over the Hawthorne and Tilikum bridges since Oct. 1 is 20 percent higher than bike traffic over the Hawthorne in 2014.

Screenshot 2015-12-21 at 3.27.22 PM

(Data: automated bike counters. Charts: BikePortland.)

And thanks to people shifting their trips to Tilikum, bike counts on the Hawthorne are down 18 percent this fall. That’s a welcome change on a bridge where crowding often worsens tension among people biking, skating and walking.

However, the first few full months of Tilikum data also show another trend worth watching: during the rainy season, Tilikum bike traffic has been falling much faster than Hawthorne traffic.

Screenshot 2015-12-21 at 3.27.41 PM

What’s going on here?

It could be that Tilikum users are disproportionately likely to switch to a different mode or skip a nonessential bike trip in nasty weather. If that’s the case, we’d expect this ratio to climb back up next summer.

It could be that people are souring on Tilikum for some reason and switching back to Hawthorne. If that’s the case, we might expect this ratio to keep gradually leveling off.


It could be that Tilikum was still seeing a surge of “curiosity rides” in October. If that’s the case, future ratios will probably keep hovering around 40 percent.

Whatever the case, this is clearly a sign of something that ought to be obvious: just like new auto lanes, useful new bike infrastructure attracts users.

In engineering jargon, bike infrastructure induces demand.

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Back in 1999, skeptics of the Hawthorne Bridge’s sidewalk improvement argued that wider sidewalks were a costly boondoggle — more space for biking than the bridge would ever need.

Over the 10 years that followed, bike traffic across the bridge tripled.

All of which means it’s especially important for us to keep looking for ways to improve the connections to Tilikum. If we can learn anything from its northern neighbor, it’s that if you build it and people come, more people will be on the way soon.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org


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