Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 21st, 2012 at 11:23 am
will be installed on the Hawthorne
Bridge later this summer.
At long last, Portland is set to install an electronic bicycle counter. The new tool, which will be placed on the Hawthorne Bridge, will provide a daily and annual, ongoing count of the number of people who pass by on a bicycle..
The new counter will be an Eco-Totem made by Eco-Counter, a Montreal-based company. Funding for the project was supplied via a $20,000 grant from Cycle Oregon. The City of Portland, Bureau of Transportation applied for the grant last fall and Cycle Oregon ride director Jerry Norquist says it was approved in February.
According to Norquist, the grants committee of the Cycle Oregon board was “intrigued” by the idea. “It’s like when McDonalds put out signs saying they sold 1 million hamburgers,” Norquist said via phone this morning, “Except this is a much bigger deal, because it will show people they’re making a difference in transportation.”
We were first intrigued by bicycle counters back in March 2007 when we posted a story about a bike counter over a path in Italy. A few weeks later we reported on the effort by Michael Downes, a local citizen activist who had launched an effort to bring one to Portland. Downes eventually go too busy with work to make the project happen; but it turns out that PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller never forgot about the idea.
Geller is the one who has spearheaded the project and it was his interest in the counter that led to the Cycle Oregon grant.
As for the Eco-Totem itself, Eco-Counter’s North American Sales Manager Jean-Francois Rheault, says (via email) that automatic counters are crucial to helping cities, “understand, decide on, and justify” cycling infrastructure. While the City of Portland’s bike counts (which are put together by Geller and his staff) are very well-known and respected around the world, Rheault says using an automated counter is, “taking data collection to the next level.”
Rheault says there are two key reasons why cities are installing counters:
First, it clearly shows to cyclists and all other modes that bicycle traffic represents a significant amount of traffic. As cycling takes very little space and is very quiet, it is always under estimated.
Secondly, when a city decide to install a bike counter with a public display, they basically send the following message to cyclists: “You count for us!” This becomes a powerful marketing tool.”
Rheault shared more about how the counter works:
“The display is connected to one or more sensors that send the information in real time. Sensors can be both a ZELT Inductive Loop or a Pneumatic Tubes both specifically designed to count bikes. The Hawthorne bridge currently has two Eco-Counter TUBES installed on both side of the bridge. The data are also sent, once a day, to a web-based display so anyone can see them.”
According to its specs, the counter uses LEDs which are highly visible at night and date, time and temperature displays are also an option.
Cycle Oregon’s Norquist says he hopes after this first counter is installed on the Hawthorne Bridge, other private partners will step up to fund more of them on busy cycle routes across the city.
Last week, the Seattle Times reported that the Cascade Bicycle Club has also received a grant for an Eco-Totem. Copenhagen, the city many consider the most bike-friendly in the world, has had bicycle counters installed since 2009.
I haven’t confirmed the exact date for installation of Portland’s counter, but sources say it will likely be up and running by August. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: For more info on automated bicycle counting in Portland, see this post by PBOT Signals Division Manager Peter Koonce.