Bike traffic is exploding on the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis as gas prices rise, according to new counts released by the city.

Counts for April through June were up 30 percent compared with the same time last year. That's based on electronic counts at three locations. An average of 8,231 cyclists daily were counted in June at the three locations combined.

A new one-day record of 5,336 cyclists was set on June 1, a Sunday, at Hennepin Avenue. That location also had the highest daily average at 3,620 in June.

The greenway is a 5.5-mile path with bike and pedestrian lanes that stretches between the Mississippi River and the border with St. Louis Park border, with extensions to the suburbs.

"We're competing with some of the most-used trails in the country," said Donald Pflaum, a city transportation planner. "It's pretty obvious that it's gas prices. That is the main reason we're seeing more people out biking."

But Pflaum said the increase also builds on years of city work to increase biking facilities and reduce barriers to cycling.

Tim Springer, director of the neighborhood coalition that advocates for the greenway, said completion of the path across the city's breadth is another major factor. The third phase of the greenway between Hiawatha Avenue and the river opened in 2006, and the Martin Olav Sabo bike-pedestrian bridge over Hiawatha opened in November.

The counts do not distinguish among cyclists who were counted at all three locations -- Hennepin, Cedar and West River Parkway -- or those counted twice during an out-and-back trip.

Traffic in June was up by more than threefold compared with 2003, when only the west half of the greenway was finished. The peak hours for use are between 5 and 7 p.m., which Springer attributed to a combination of recreational and commuting traffic.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438