The cycle barometer a year on

This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 121.

Cambridge’s first cycle barometer.
Image as described adjacent

A year ago Cambridge’s first cycle barometer was erected on the bend in the cycle path between the Gonville Place crossing and Regent Terrace (see Newsletter 115).

I cycle past it on my way to work most mornings, around 9.00am, and took to noting how many cyclists had gone past by the time I got there. I have now done so for almost a year. So I have data for most weekdays. Not weekends, as I rarely cycle into town on a weekend morning, and not many Wednesdays, as that’s usually my day off.

The figures are not very accurate. I do not go past at the same time every day and, in any case, the clock on the barometer does not keep good time, being several minutes fast; furthermore, it took months to be adjusted for summertime. In addition, if several cyclists pass at the same time it is hard to be certain whether, for example, one was the six hundredth and tenth or six hundredth and eleventh cyclist. Nevertheless, for most of the past year I know which number I was.

It varies quite a lot but is usually between six and seven hundred – the average number of cyclists passing the barometer before 9.00am on weekdays is 620, ranging from 382 to 779. What I think is noticeable is the effect of school holidays. The two weeks with the lowest averages were the week beginning 30 March 2015 – the week before Easter – and the one after. School half-term breaks also show up. The week of 27 October had an average of 532, compared with over 700 for the weeks before and after. Similarly, the week beginning 16 February had an average of 455 compared with over 600 for the weeks on either side. For the week beginning 25 May the figure was 481, compared with 681 and 666.

What also seems apparent is a pattern of daily variation. Ignoring Wednesdays, as I do not have sufficient data, from these figures it looks as if the highest number of cyclists travelling past before about 9.15 in the morning is on Tuesdays, while Friday is the day with fewest cyclists. I think this makes sense, as many people, if taking a day off work, will take Friday or Monday to make a long weekend.

I don’t think weather makes much difference, which is not surprising as the weather has to be very bad for me to even consider not cycling. I don’t have a car and the bus takes longer, even without factoring in the waiting time.

It would be interesting to see whether these patterns are also apparent in the daily totals, but at the moment we do not have the official figures from the cycle barometer. See

Monica Frisch