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More details on bike counter coming to Hawthorne Bridge

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:08 am

"This counter will raise awareness among all travelers of the significant role bicycles play in Portland's transportation system."
— PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson

As we shared on Monday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is all set to install the city's first automated bicycle counter on the Hawthorne Bridge. The new counter, purchased from a Canadian company thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Cycle Oregon Fund, will provide a daily and ongoing tally of the number of bicycles that pass by it.

After our post, many of you wondered where exactly the counter would go. We followed-up with PBOT and this morning we heard more details from bureau spokesman Dan Anderson and PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller.

Anderson says the counter — or in PBOT's words, the "bicycle barometer" (which is coincidentally the same term citizen Michael Downes used when he talked about bringing one to Portland back in 2007) — will be installed at the west end of the north side of the bridge. Specifically, it will go where the path splits off to Waterfront Park/Naito Blvd and SW Main Street. PBOT provided this graphic of the location and the counter:

As you can tell, this location looks good because it won't get in anyone's way on the already busy pathway. NOTE: PBOT says this was an early mock-up and they do not plan on having the bike symbol on top.

And here's a closer look at the counter itself:

(Hmmm... might have to ask if they'll consider not using "cyclists".)

PBOT also shared this overview of where the loops will be placed:

PBOT says they plan to have it installed by early August.

I asked PBOT what their main motivation was in doing this project. Here's what they said (the second part isn't something I had considered yet):

"The main reason PBOT is installing a bike counter is that it contributes to making bicycling — and the impact of bicycling — more visible. There is significant number of people riding bicycles across the Hawthorne Bridge and this counter will raise awareness among all travelers of the significant role bicycles play in Portland's transportation system.

Also, the counter will provide high-quality data. We’ll better understand bicycle counts relevant to time-of-day and temperature. Having data collected every hour of the year will help us better understand how different elements affect ridership and also give us a better sense of the seasonal variation in bicycling."

It's worth noting that while the counter itself will be placed on only one side of the bridge, PBOT will have pneumatic hose counters placed on both sides of the bridge and data will be sent wirelessly to the display.

Right now, PBOT is working out some technical elements of the installation, and they're hoping to have everything ironed out by the time the counter arrives in July.

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Comments
  • Ethan May 23, 2012 at 10:17 am

    It will be really cool to see how this goes. C+ on the design.

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    • Andrew N May 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

      My thoughts exactly! The font and text placement are not exactly elegant. And this is nitpicky but does it really need to say "Portland, OR"? Seems unnecessary, since most of us are going to know what city we're in, and also adds clutter to a design that should be as clean and simple as possible. Hopefully this is just a mock-up.

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      • Andrew K May 23, 2012 at 11:57 am

        Actually, I think having it say "Portland, OR" is a good thing considering people will take pictures of this and upload it to Flickr, Facebook, etc. etc. When you consider people typically look at such pictures for about two seconds it will still work as instant PR for the city.

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        • maxadders May 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm

          Exactly, this is going to attract visitors / tourists, no doubt.

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        • Andrew N May 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm

          That's a good point that I hadn't thought of. Something about it still bugs me, though -- maybe if they took the "OR" off (I don't think Flickr users are going to confuse us with the other Portland, especially with the Hawthorne Bridge graphic) or used some sort of slogan, like "Portland Rides", instead. It just looks kind of clumsy to my eyes.

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  • peejay May 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

    If the counts are sent to some central database (as they should), perhaps some enterprising entrepreneur will put together a phone app so we can all see the data, even when we're not crossing the bridge. They could stand to make HUNDREDS of dollars.

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  • basketloverd May 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

    So this system is completely different from the ones the transpo agency's currently use. Does the $20,000 cover maintenance over the years if not who picks that up?

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  • Mindful Cyclist May 23, 2012 at 10:27 am

    This does look pretty cool. And, good place for it as it will not be blocking anyone.

    It does make me wonder though, with these inductive loops, if I am going to have to really ride over a certain spot to be counted or if they are good enough to really catch me if I am a few feet off.

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  • Roger Geller May 23, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Thanks Jonathan. It's worth noting that the mock-up shown in location at the west end of the bridge was a crude first attempt to show what the counter might look like in place. The image you show as the "counter itself" is what it will look like. In other words, no big bike sticking off the top.

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  • Paul May 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Gees, it could be nicer looking. All italics? Hmph

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  • Granpa May 23, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Paul
    Gees, it could be nicer looking. All italics? Hmph
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    The font is ODOT font 24 with standard slant.

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  • Poky Pedaling Stevens Point May 23, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Maybe they can use wording 'Bicycles today' since it counts based on wheels, not people.

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    • KYouell May 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Good point. My 1 bike counts (usually) as 3 people. ;-)

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  • John Lascurettes May 23, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Jonathan, so you don't want "cyclists" used here. I agree with your labeling people concerns. So what would you want used on the counter? "Bicycles"? "People on bikes"? I mean, we are trying to count bicycle traffic specifically here. Seems like simply "bicycles" would be appropriate here.

    Side question, would this pick up skateboards, rollerblades and the like?

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    • jram May 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

      I would think "Cycling Trips" would be a good description. Especially since the same "Cyclist" will be likely counted multiple times each day/year.

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      • John Lascurettes May 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

        Oooh. Good point. Drives home the point too that multiple "cycling trips" has no measurable environmental impact whereas multiple "car trips" do.

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      • todd May 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm

        "Bike trips" is shorter and avoids the faintly clubby/recreational slant of "cycling". You wouldn't say "motoring trips" for cars right?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

      John,

      Thanks for asking!

      I've already mentioned my concerns with using "cyclists" on this counter to PBOT and they are very open to input. I was thinking maybe "People on bikes today" and "People on bikes this year" but then PBOT suggested how about just "Bikes today" and "Bikes this year." I like that better! "Bikes" might not have the human element that I like, but it's simple. I have confidence we'll come up with something other than "cyclists".

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      • Brad May 23, 2012 at 11:36 am

        Not calling us "cyclists" will really raise awareness and buy newfound respect from the "carbon based sentient human internal combustion vehicle operators".

        Now I must mount my "human powered bi-wheeled mechanical conveyance" and get some exercise.

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  • 9watts May 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Is the signal from the loop on the South sidewalk that counts traffic heading east connected wirelessly with the receiver/display at the West end, or is there a looooong wire that goes up and back down the two towers that lift the central section of the bridge?

    A while back I was on the Hawthorne Bridge when they raised the platform waaaay up, much higher than I'd ever seen it go, and it was not for a ship but I figured for some kind of maintenance.

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  • Paul Manson May 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

    On the design, I can't help but think it is the transportation version of HAL. "Dave, I think you need your helmet."

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    • HAL9000 May 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      I'm sorry Paul. I'm afraid I can't do that.

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  • Robert L May 23, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Looks like I will have to change my ride into town, as I usually pass the Hawthorne for a leisurely ride across the Steel. It will also be interesting to see how/if the new Tri-Met bridge will affect the Hawthorne commuter numbers.

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  • Paul Manson May 23, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Also, its nerdy, but I have to share the funny coincidence that the Hawthorne Bridge will be the site of a potential example of the Hawthorne Effect. (Sorry, organizational theory dork...) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

      wow. that's awesomely nerdy paul. thanks for sharing. One thing to keep in mind though... is that I fully expect more of these to go up once it is on the ground. Like Cycle Oregon did, there will be other orgs and businesses that will see the PR/community value in attaching their name and funds to putting these all over town.

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      • KYouell May 23, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        Good to know. First thing I thought was, "Shoot, and I just learned how flat the Steel Bridge route was. Now I'll have to use the Hawthorne just to be counted." So, Hawthorne Effect working & I'm not going to switch they can just come count the heavy bikes on the Steel.

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  • Andrew K May 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I love the location. It's perfect as far as I'm concerned.

    I have no problem with the design of the display either. Sure I could haggle about the font or the exact wording, but whatever. The point will get across.

    Now my question is, what happens when we reach the top of the meter? Two million bikes crossing the bridge in a year...come on guys we can totally do it!!

    See, the thing has me excited all ready. Can we safely say that is part of the "Hawthorne Effect"?

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  • Andrew K May 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    ...as a side note.

    I think the timing on this is perfect. It will up for a long enough period of time across many different seasons before the new bridge is built down river. This way the city can get data around whether or not the new bridge increases daily ridership or just simply shifts the existing daily riders to a new bridge.

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  • Andrew K May 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    ...and the last thing I'll add:

    Maybe BikePortland.org should start a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for another one? Can you imagine one of these things with the BikePortland blog logo on the bottom? The top donors could perhaps have their names written on it as an incentive.

    Just a thought!

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    • Joseph E May 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      It could go on the Steel Bridge or the Broadway Bridge.

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      • Joseph E May 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm

        But really, shouldn't the county or city pay for these? They pay to do vehicle counts at hundreds of locations every year, and ODOT has permanently installed counters in dozens of locations on highways and freeways.

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        • Andrew K May 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm

          eh, I look at this in the same way I look at the solar compacting trash cans downtown. Sure, city government should provide garbage cans but the solar ones are a bit above and beyond. As such you see them sponsered and paid for by different companies and non-profits like PGE, etc. etc.

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        • Spiffy May 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

          the city counts bikes... are you saying that they should install a visible motor vehicle count as well so we can compare?

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    • Spiffy May 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      I'd pitch in a few bucks for that...

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    • HAL9000 May 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      I would actually donate at least $10 to this fund. I hate kickstarter, but would make an exception for this. Here's my suggestions:

      -Steel Bridge
      -Burnside Bridge
      -new Trimet bridge

      for starters.

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      • Andrew K May 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

        I am with you actually when it comes to Kickstarter. I hate the way people use it to beg for money for their person pet projects... "hey, give me money so I can travel to Europe!"

        But for a project that benefits a community and isn't about profit I think Kickstarter has it's pluses.

        I would personally donate a heck of a lot more than $10 to this. I feel confident a lot of people would donate what they could spare.

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    • peejay May 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      The Bikeportland counter needs to go on Williams Ave, to remind PBOT just what it is they were supposed to fix on that street. They seem to have forgotten.

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  • eli bishop May 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    i would love to see the sign dim at dusk: often things which are bright enough to see in daylight are too bright at night. i don't want to squint as i get close or turn onto the waterfront!

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  • GlowBoy May 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Ha! Totally a great place to see the Hawthorne Effect in action. I love it.

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  • Scott May 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    and BikePortland.org should also have a live readout of the data coming from the barometer in the sidebar. That way we can all see it no matter where and when we all are looking.

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    • CaptainKarma May 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      A webcam would be totally cool. I used to check Clever Cycles Hawthorne St. cam every day before they apparently lost interest in showing the world just how *much* we roll in pdx.

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      • todd May 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm

        We didn't lose interest in showing the world. We lost interest in the bandwidth and security issues that hosting the cam presented. Maybe there's a cleaner approach out there and we'll pick it up again.

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  • RyNO Dan May 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Pneumatic ? Boo. Was hoping for lasers.

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    • Spiffy May 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      there were no sharks available to mount the lasers on...

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  • Chris May 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Will unicycles mess up the count?

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    • Paul Manson May 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      No, but bagpipes and a unicycle may.

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      • KYouell May 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        Darth Vader costume optional?

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  • John I. May 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Spiffy
    there were no sharks available to mount the lasers on...
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    Coulda put the lasers on some kittens, just sayin...
    Would love to see a web cam at that spot.

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  • mark kenseth May 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I like the idea of a bike counter. I'm wondering if the bike counter could have bigger numbers (to make reading it while riding toward it a little easier). Or could it be placed overhead on the street sign (Main St./To 5 South) so cars can see the bike numbers?...not that we need to distract auto drivers even more.

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  • sabes May 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Leave it to this community to bitch and moan about the smallest detail of a bike project. Kudos for being so predictable!

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    • Matt M May 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Your comment seems the meanest of them all. Glass houses?

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    • mark kenseth May 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      Where is this bitching an moaning? Can you quote them? I read a lot of enthusiasm for the project, with some suggestions for font and wording.

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  • Editz May 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    "what happens when we reach the top of the meter?"

    Fireworks shoot out of the top.

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  • Lazy Spinner May 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    "Sorry about your dead loved ones and that mess we built up on Williams that seems to cause more bike/car collisions but, look at our really cool bike counter!" - PBOT

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  • dwainedibbly May 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    So one display, counting trips in both directions? That might not be clear to people reading the numbers. Perhaps the display should say something like "Total of eastbound and westbound trips", or something.

    Also, how many trips per year are expected? Is the scale on the bar graph appropriate? You wouldn't want it to top out at 2 million if the actual number in a year is going to be 3 million (or 50,000), for example.

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  • spare_wheel May 24, 2012 at 8:19 am

    what we really need are big reader boards on all major suburban highways (e.g. i5, 26, 217). imo, this would do far more good than this "preaching to the converted"

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