Did you know that Trip Advisor has ranked the Shining Sea Bikeway as the No. 1 attraction in Falmouth? Meandering 10.7 miles along a former railroad track through cranberry bogs, salt water marshes and stunning coast, the Shining Sea Bikeway is one of the gemstones of Falmouth. Ranked first of 43 activities for tourists, the bikeway also offers a viable alternative for commuters traveling along the along the north-south corridor. Now we have proof of just how big a draw this bike path is to cyclists and pedestrians.
Since construction of the initial section of the Shining Sea Bikeway in 1975, numerous efforts have been made to quantify its utilization by manual counting. These manual counts varied in degrees of success. Manual counts are labor-intensive, requiring one or two people, in several shifts, typically eight or more hours, and usually limited to one day. With single-day efforts, results often vary significantly due to day of week, weather and other factors.
In the spring the Town of Falmouth Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee researched automated counters. Based on their efforts, this July the Friends of Falmouth Bikeways purchased an EcoCounter by Eco-Visio, a widely used and well-regarded automated device for tallying bidirectional usage of the Shining Sea Bikeway by cyclists and pedestrians. Where once biannual manual counts recorded bikeway usage, the Eco-Counter provides reliable and accurate counts of path activity to the Falmouth Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. In turn, this data will be shared with the local department of public works, board of selectmen and chamber of commerce to assist in planning, budgeting and maintaining the path.
The counter was installed approximately at the mid-point of the bikeway to quantify cyclist and pedestrian traffic traveling south towards the Woods Hole terminus and north to the North Falmouth terminus. After startup testing and calibration, the counter was placed in operation on July 28.
Data can be downloaded to the Eco-Visio software application and displayed in a variety of different graphic and tabular formats, broken down by pedestrian and cyclists, as well as by direction the user is traveling. Over the period of July 28 through October 31, the counter clocked 119,129 passes. Of these 17,763 were pedestrians and 101,366 were cyclists. For the month of August the counter noted 52,468; for September, 38,274; and for October, 22,394. Labor Day Sunday, September 6, showed a peak of activity, noting 3,215 users passing the counter in just one day. On weekdays, the counter has recorded approximately 100 pedestrians per day traveling each way; on weekends, double that number, with approximately 200 per day, in each direction. Between 600 and 700 cyclists were recorded on a typical weekday traveling in each direction with as many as 1,100 to 1,200 in each direction on weekends and holidays with a peak of 1,500.
The committee plans to post this information on their website and Facebook page and will share this data with the community and local partners for planning purposes. With clear and accurate usage data, businesses and municipal authorities can better assess the economic benefits of the path both to the environment and to local tourism.