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New Numbers Show How Many People Are Using the Capital Crescent Trail

‘State of Bicycling’ report shows just how popular trail is for pedestrians and bicyclists


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Capital Crescent Trail users cross Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda

Via Flickr user ehpien

A report on the “State of Bicycling” in Montgomery County shows about 70,000 bicyclist and pedestrian trips on the Capital Crescent Trail in June, part of what’s considered to be the most detailed study ever of the popular trail that runs through Bethesda and into Washington, D.C.

The bicycling report, published this week as part of the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Bicycle Master Plan, also delves into how many people use the county’s Capital Bikeshare stations, the percentage of people who bike to work and the types of bicycle lanes both existing and planned for county roadways.

It uses findings from an ongoing and separate Montgomery Parks program to count the exact number of users at two points along the trail with technology that can differentiate between bicyclists and pedestrians—and even between a bicyclist and someone walking a baby stroller.

Charles Kines, who’s in charge of trail planning for Montgomery Parks, said the two counting locations were installed as part of the department’s new snow plowing pilot project on the trail to help evaluate just how many people use the route.

The counter on the trail about 200 yards south of where the trail goes off-road at Bethesda Avenue opened Nov. 13, 2014. The second counter, about 100 yards south of the Dalecarlia Tunnel, opened Feb. 11. The tunnel is located close to the D.C. line near MacArthur Boulevard.

Kines said both involve a wooden post about five feet from the trail with a laser beam that crosses the trail. Each time that beam is interrupted, from either direction, it’s counted by the Eco-Counter system that Parks is using.

Parks staff also installed coil beneath the pavement that creates an electromagnetic field. When that field is broken, it can determine if a metal bicycle or a human is crossing it. The technology also allows Parks to determine if the user is headed toward Washington, D.C., or further into Bethesda.

In June, the counter near Bethesda Avenue counted 35,154 bicyclists and 34,577 pedestrians, a daily average of 1,172 bicyclists and 1,153 pedestrians.

Monthly usage numbers in 2015 for the Capital Crescent Trail, via Montgomery County Planning Department

Via Montgomery County Planning Department

The counter near the Dalecarlia Tunnel, farther from any developed commercial area, showed a shift toward bicyclists with 13,631 pedestrians and 53,399 bicyclists passing through.

In July, the counter near Bethesda Avenue counted 41,007 bicyclists and 44,503 pedestrians for a daily average of 1,323 bicyclists and 1,436 pedestrians. For both pedestrians and bicyclists, about 53 percent were headed toward D.C. and 47 percent were headed toward Bethesda Avenue.

The July numbers near the Dalecarlia Tunnel counter showed the same shift toward bicyclists with 59,952 bicyclists and 15,152 pedestrians.

In 2006, volunteers with the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail conducted a usage survey at five locations. The data was analyzed by Montgomery Parks, and showed that 1 million people use the trail each year at that time.

The “State of Bicycling” report used the more recent data to show weekends are the most popular times to use the trail, with an average of more than 2,500 users and more than 1,000 bicyclists passing through the Bethesda Avenue counter on Sundays this year.

Via Montgomery County Planning Department

Planners working on the Bicycle Master Plan hope to create a bicyclist “stress map” to identify highly congested and high-speed roads that are less attractive for bicyclists.

The plan could also recommend a series of new off-road bicyclist paths and on-road bicycle lanes, buffered bicycle lanes, separated bicycle lanes and other road and intersection markings to make it easier for those who ride.

The “State of Bicycling” report also shows the Metro station with the most bicycles parked in 2014 (Twinbrook) and the one with the fewest bicycles parked (Wheaton).

Of the 51 Capital Bikeshare stations in the county, the one at the Bethesda Metro station is the most used with a daily average of 11.3 trips originating there. The Capital Bikeshare at the Friendship Heights Metro station is the second most used with a daily average of 6.5 trips originating there. The station at Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road came in third with a daily average of six trips per day.

Montgomery County opened its first Bikeshare stations in September 2013. The report used Bikeshare data to determine that three out of five county Bikeshare trips both start and end in the county and just over half of county trips last less than 10 minutes.

The daily average for county Bikeshare trips in 2014 was less than 150. The most popular trip pair in the county was from the station at the Takoma Metro to Carroll Avenue and Ethan Allen Avenue, which accounted for 2,445 trips in 2014 and 6 percent of all county trips.

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