2014 vs 2015: New Santa Cruz bike bridge leads to more bike traffic

Strava added a new feature to their global heatmap allowing you to compare 2014 vs 2015 activities for an area. I looked at the streets surrounding a new bike bridge in Santa Cruz, California and found new east-west traffic patterns.

Arana Gulch bike bridge before / after

Strava’s global heatmap shows the relative distribution of locations for people who share their data on Strava, a popular activity tracking app and website. You can compare 2014 and 2015 data with an easy sliding interface so you play amateur traffic engineer.

When Santa Cruz County opened a new bike bridge in January 2015, a few bike people wondered if this new bridge would change travel patterns for people biking east-west between Santa Cruz, Live Oak and Capitola. The usual routes are either Soquel Avenue, with multiple lanes of very heavy traffic and many intersections and driveways, or Murray Street, which is also often congested.

After the county completed the Arana Gulch bike bridge north of Santa Cruz Harbor, bike traffic increased significantly on Broadway Street (west of the harbor) and Brommer Street (east of the harbor). The new bikeway connects these two streets. Both have less motor vehicle traffic than Soquel and are, frankly, nicer to ride bikes on than either Murray or Soquel.

Bike use also seems to have decreased on Capitola Road, which connects Soquel Avenue to Live Oak and Capitola.

I discuss and highlight some of these roads in this video capture.

See the heatmap for yourself here. I also invite you to check areas you’re familiar with. San Jose residents, for example, may want to look at this map, which is centered on the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Willow Street. The city of San Jose began a pilot road diet on Lincoln in the Spring of 2015. The street was reduced from four lanes to three, and bike lanes were added. Strava heatmaps shows an increase in north-south bike traffic on Lincoln in 2015 compared to 2014.

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