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This $50 device could change bike planning forever

Posted by on January 13th, 2015 at 3:56 pm

henderson with chip
Knock Software founder William Henderson with a matchbox-sized device similar to the one he’s developed that could sell for $50, last for two years and count every bike that passes by.
(Photos: M.Andersen and J.Maus/BikePortland)

Do bikes count?

A three-person Portland startup that hit a jackpot with its first mobile app is plowing profits into a new venture: a cheap, tiny device that could reinvent the science of measuring bike traffic — and help see, for the first time, thousands of people that even the bike-friendliest American cities ignore.

Tomorrow, Portland’s city council will consider a proposal to become their first client.

An app-store hit fuels a passion project

henderson office

When I meet him in his company’s office three floors above Ash Street, William Henderson tells me he doesn’t smile in photos.

“People will think I’m not working,” he says. Then he grins.

Henderson shouldn’t be worried. After graduating from Portland’s Reed College in 2008, he spent two years at Apple before moving to Square, where he worked as lead mobile engineer and then directed the creation of Square Wallet, the ecstatically reviewed but ultimately unsuccessful service that, for a while, let you pay for any Starbucks drink by telling the cashier your name.

Last year, his bootstrapped startup Knock Software created a $4 app that lets you log securely into a Mac by tapping your knuckle twice against your smartphone.

It’s been a hit. So Henderson, a daily bike commuter here in Portland, decided that his next product would try to improve something he cared about: transportation.

“We got lucky and made a product that did pretty well,” he said. “So we have this awesome luxury, which is money coming in the door for a business, and we can work on something we care about. … Of course we want it to eventually be profitable, but the wolf is away from the door for a little bit.”

Clipboard bike counts: Flawed measurements

Fall leaves on SE Ankeny-7
Southeast Ankeny: Popular, but how popular?

Portland’s decade-thick database of two-hour bike counts conducted once a year by people holding clipboards at 200 locations is the envy of cities around the world.

But it’s also, in important ways, awful. Because bikes are counted mostly from 4 to 6 p.m., the city count ignores people who don’t work 9 to 5 and barely measures non-work trips, which account for 80 percent of the places we go. Because it’s done by humans, it requires 560 hours of staff time plus hundreds more volunteer hours. And because Portland’s counts usually cover just one day a year, they can very wildly with weather and special events.

The result: even in Portland, our understanding of bike traffic is far weaker than our understanding of car or transit traffic, and therefore harder to make smart investments in.

Does a neighborhood greenway increase or decrease biking on nearby commercial streets? Do certain designs appeal more to midday travelers than to rush-hour travelers? How do seasons or construction zones affect people’s route or mode choices? As rents in central Portland have spiraled out of reach for people like restaurant workers — 3 percent of the national labor force but 14 percent of bike commuters, according to the Census Bureau — have East Portland streets seen spikes in midday and late-night bike trips?

The answer to every question: we don’t know.


Currently existing bike counters, like the one on the Hawthorne Bridge or the detection loops used at some intersections, are more sensitive but far more expensive. A typical bike counter, Henderson said, requires not only the hardware required to detect the bike and a computer to store the information but on-board cellular equipment with its own data plan. They sell for about $5,000, he said.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s grant proposal, it’s looking to buy 200 of Henderson’s matchbox-sized portable bike counters for $10,000 — $50 apiece.

How Knock’s bike counter works

device in hand

Here’s the secret behind Knock Software’s dirt-cheap bike counter: It doesn’t connect to the Internet.

Instead, it detects every passer-by — with or without a smartphone — and keeps a count in its simple, tiny onboard computer. Then it waits.

Knock’s tools for detecting bikes aren’t new. A magnetic panel the size of a grain of rice detects the distortion a bike creates in a magnetic field as it passes. An infrared camera measures the heat pattern of a human. The new bike counting device combines those observations and uses a speed calculation to guess whether the passer-by is in a car, on a bike or on foot.

What’s new, Henderson says, is what happens when someone who’s installed a special smartphone app passes within 20 or 30 feet of his device. Every time that happens, the device uses a low-energy Bluetooth signal to pass the information to that person’s smartphone, which then uses its own Internet connection to pass the stockpiled bike counts anonymously into the cloud.

The passer-by with the special app might be a city employee or volunteer. Or it could be someone who’s installed Knock’s related product: a new mobile bike route-planning app called Ride.

Ride, which entered private beta testing last week, is the other half of Henderson’s big plan. He wants it to be the app you install to get turn-by-turn bike directions customized to your personal comfort level.

But that’s in the future. For now, he’s focused on finding a “core group of people who are using it just because they’re advocates.” Using data voluntarily gathered via those advocates, Henderson hopes to gradually build features that will appeal to the public at large — and to finance the whole thing by selling the bike count devices to cities like Portland.

For Portland, a $40,000 experiment

Hawthorne Bridge bike counter hits 1 million-7
The Hawthorne Bridge bike counter is precise and visible, but it cost Cycle Oregon $20,000.

Portland Active Transportation Manager Margi Bradway said Monday that the city’s proposed relationship with Henderson’s company is an experiment. It’d be funded by $5,000 from her discretionary budget and a $35,000 grant from Mayor Charlie Hales’ $1 million-a-year “Innovation Program.”

Bradway said the Knock devices wouldn’t replace Portland’s annual clipboard counts unless they work. But if they do, “it would free up a ton of staff time and spreadsheet time.”

“If the cost goes down, then we can put them in places that we’re not counting as much right now,” Bradway said. “We aspire to have a lot richer bike infrastructure in East Portland. … This is a way for us to glean a lot more data from those areas.”

Eventually, Henderson said, the features that’ll be offered by the Ride app would let the city measure not just the quantity of bike trips but their quality.

“What I would love is if in three years, we were able to develop what I call an ’emotional level of service’ … how an intersection makes you feel,” he said. “You could give hard data to the city that they could use to evaluate their success.”

NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

83 Comments
  • New Media January 13, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I love how this headline looks like clickbait but is actually relevant and informative.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 13, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      Thanks – hoping that’s not sarcastic. :) Always trying to use clickbait’s powers for good.

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      • New Media January 14, 2015 at 9:11 am

        no snark here…

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  • Aaron January 13, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Really interesting and cool technology. Thanks for posting.

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  • Corey Burger January 13, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Interesting device, shall have to watch it. Challenge he will have is tuning the devices, which is devlishly hard. And survivability (including battery life). Hence the 20k.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 13, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      Didn’t fit in the story but Henderson says his “goal” is for the battery to last as long as the estimated device lifespan: two years.

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      • DanTheCar-freeMan January 14, 2015 at 9:13 am

        Great story. Could you clear up some incomplete information though?
        200 counters @ $10,000
        “It’d be funded by $5,000 from her discretionary budget and a $35,000 grant.” but you don’t specify what this other $30K is being spent on.

        Thanks!

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        • Spiffy January 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

          probably installation and the people-hours in the office…

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    • Rob G January 14, 2015 at 11:18 am

      could always add a small solar charge panel to to the device, some can be bought online for $10 it could extend the battery life without boosting the cost too much

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  • Eric Ivy January 13, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    I want to throw a party for these guys

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  • Dwaine Dibbly January 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Please plan a followup story in 6 months or a year. I want to read what happens next!

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  • CaptainKarma January 13, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Combine this with a RFID bike theft tracker and it will be a hit.

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  • 9watts January 13, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Very, very cool idea. I hope it works and the City learns a lot.

    “We aspire to have a lot richer bike infrastructure in East Portland. … This is a way for us to glean a lot more data from those areas.”

    Sure, but unless I’m mistaken, the problem with bike infrastructure in Portland isn’t that there’s this great risk of putting it in the wrong place, but that by the time it is installed PBOT has traded away the bold bits of the bike infrastructure it had promised.

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    • davemess January 14, 2015 at 9:46 am

      And is there a lower incidence of cyclists who have smart phones in East Portland?

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

        Quite possibly, but that only means that the data from this device would be uploaded less frequently – not that it would be less accurate once someone finally goes past.

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  • Jeff January 13, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    I didn’t see contact info. We’re looking at buying bike counters …

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  • was carless January 13, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Something something about establishing infrastructure that people then use, vs putting it where people already are.

    Leaders vs followers?

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  • Mike Quiglery January 14, 2015 at 5:45 am

    How about a cheap, tiny device that can be slipped into a bike tube for theft tracking?

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    • dr2chase January 14, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Bike tube would need a hole in it for an antenna. Not impossible, but you need to be aware of the issue. Ought to be a way to do it with a seatpost; I think there are places a seatpost could tolerate a small hole in it.

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      • mckillio January 15, 2015 at 9:50 am

        The antenna could just come out of the top of the tube.

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  • Laura January 14, 2015 at 8:23 am

    A solution seeking a problem. Supposedly the city can’t afford to put in needed diverters on, say, Clinton; we can’t afford to repair pot holes; we can’t afford pedestrian-specific signals. But we CAN afford to be the Guinea pig for a relatively unproven technology. $40k is several diverters, a ped signal, or a lot of potholes.

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    • paikiala January 14, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Which ped signal? Rapid flash beacons are $12k a pole, so at least $24k per 2-lane crosswalk or $36k if there is an island (3 or 4-lane crossing). The Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons are $150k each. Full signals start around $200k each.
      The problem is that all current bike counts are snapshots of one or two hours a day. A new tube counter on Ankeny Portland tested counted over 2,000 cyclist in one day, where the manual turn count found 173 AM inbound and 143 PM outbound. Until Portland had the 24-hour bike count, it had no way to even guess at the daily bike traffic.

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    • Spiffy January 14, 2015 at 10:42 am

      if they can prove there’s a ton of bike traffic all day on Clinton then it’ll merit a diverter…

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    • Jonathan Gordon January 14, 2015 at 11:23 am

      $35K of the $40K comes from the Innovation Program. So most of the money is coming from a completely different bucket than money for diverters, ped signals, or pothole repairs.

      It seems to me that having separate buckets with different criteria is a good thing. Otherwise all infrastructure funding becomes a zero sum game and it’s near impossible to have a diverse range of projects that push the city forward in multiple directions rather than serialize progress along just one axis.

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  • Josh January 14, 2015 at 8:46 am

    I concur this is very cool. We should recognize that counting devices exist that can count all bikes rather well (with or without a smart phone) and they are not terribly expensive, permanent counters are $6-$8K per and portable are $3-$4K per. The permanent counters cannot be put everywhere and the portables require someone to go out and place them and move them around. The point here is these things exist, cities and regions are using them, we just need to do it. We do this for cars and we should demand we do it for bikes (and peds).

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    • DanTheCar-freeMan January 14, 2015 at 9:16 am

      if this works in Portland, it sounds much more economical AND the technology if proven in Portland, etc. can help other cities that don’t have the funds to install many permanent or invest in portable counters.

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  • groovin101 January 14, 2015 at 9:22 am

    +1 for DATA!!

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  • JP January 14, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Funny you should post this now. Last week I was thinking “why not make Arduino bicycle counters and place them on all the bridges?” Glad someone is on it!

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  • josh j January 14, 2015 at 10:23 am

    The funding breaks down like this:
    $10,000 Counters
    $12,000 Installation
    $15,000 Project Management
    $3,000 Contingency
    $3,000 Ongoing Maintenance
    http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?a=514911&c=50265

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    • Spiffy January 14, 2015 at 10:45 am

      page 23…

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  • Mark January 14, 2015 at 10:30 am

    City governments considering this as an option should also consider Strava Metro. Rather than rely on individual points, Strava Metro provides deep data on routes and destinations. It also doesn’t rely on an infrastructure of sensors.

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    • William Henderson January 14, 2015 at 11:20 am

      For smartphone-equiped riders, we’ll offer deep data as well. This will includes route data, as well as ’emotional data’ on whether someone had a good or bad experience on their ride. Not to downplay Metro, I think it is awesome.

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    • Brian January 14, 2015 at 11:25 am

      And its a fraction of the cost of this for the entire state instead of just the city of Portland.

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    • Gary January 14, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Collecting and analyzing data only from users who choose to track their rides using a proprietary app, while undoubtedly useful in its own right, is not a substitute for fully objective, unbiased ride count data.

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      • Brian January 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

        No but blending that type of data that represents a contast sample of riders with count data begins to allow for a deeper view into cycling behaviour. More data is better data as long as it’s all used within constraints. Cycling needs to start to collect and look at as much data as the car industry and to do that they should be looking at any and every data feed they can get their hands on. it’s only then that the cycling industry will start to have as much sway as the auto industry on the roads.

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    • Duncan Parks January 19, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Yeah, but Strava is hardly a great cross-section of bike users or even the trips taken in town by Strava users. I’m a Strava user for “real rides,” but I don’t fire it up for doing errands or commuting (don’t want the device getting stolen).

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    • Z. Fechten February 3, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Strava caters to the competive and fitness rider, so their data may or may not be valid on school or commuter routes. I’m not knocking Strava (I use it myself) , but as a traffic engineer, complete counts at point locations is better than partial counts over wider areas.

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  • John Lascurettes January 14, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Knock’s tools for detecting bikes aren’t new. A magnetic panel the size of a grain of rice detects the distortion a bike creates in a magnetic field as it passes. An infrared camera measures the heat pattern of a human. The new bike counting device combines those observations and uses a speed calculation to guess whether the passer-by is in a car, on a bike or on foot.

    I’m curious. If someone is doing 25 or 30 on a bike (not hard to do on Broadway coming off the bridge heading into downtown), will it assume they’re in a car or on a motorcycle? Put the counters on an uphill and you might get more accurate bike counts. ;)

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    • William Henderson January 14, 2015 at 10:52 am

      The piece you quote isn’t quite the full story. We do look at speed, but not exclusively. A car can be moving slow, a bike can be fast. What we do is look at speed in combination with magnetic field changes that happen from a passing metal object. With these two factors together, we can reliably determine the difference between a car (lots metal moving, a big change in magnetic field for a given speed) and a bike (less metal moving, a smaller change in magnetic field for a given speed). Hope that makes sense…

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      • soren January 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

        how much metal? would a composite, wood, or bamboo-framed bike be picked up?

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      • q`Tzal January 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm

        I thought infrared detection would further enhance the reliability: most automobile passengers are behind glass, bicycle riders exposed and usually exerting themselves.

        Did you mention the range on these? For example if this was used for counts on a neighborhood greenway street we’re looking at about 30’~35′. Would the metal detector component be able to sense riders on both sides of this street?

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      • John Lascurettes January 14, 2015 at 1:59 pm

        Yup. Cool. Thank you.

        I figured it would be pretty easy to get a proper profile between a car and a bike just from the amount of metal.

        I suppose it get trickier with the spectrum from bike, e-bike, moped, scooter, small motorcycle and all the conveyance devices in between. But I can see how it could still be done.

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  • Joe January 14, 2015 at 10:47 am

    every bike counts :)

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    • q`Tzal January 15, 2015 at 5:22 am

      Using a counting system that relies on an electronic tag or tracker on every bicycle guarantees that the poor will not be reliably counted.

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      • JP May 15, 2016 at 5:10 am

        All bikes are counted, not just the ones with the smartphone app. When a rider with the app goes by, the accumulated data uploads.

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  • David Ugarte January 14, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Why not GPS metadata and eliminate this device. Basically a city specific Strava. All that metadata provides you with WAY more info about the city and its cyclists. Speed, time, distance, frequency all anonymized and sent to a central location that analyzes the data. From there you can see what areas are cycled more than others, the average speed, the amount of cycle traffic in a given location, etc. The more I think about it the more I dislike this whole magnet idea.

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    • q`Tzal January 14, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      A GPS device has to be purchased for EVERY SINGLE BICYCLE. Such a device must be light or not everyone will use it.
      It would be mobile (rather than a stationary) so it could only run on a battery.
      GPS is power hungry and would use battery capacity quickly.
      No matter what you say about data anonymization a very large segment of the population will refuse to participate in another Big Brother program like ODOT’s alternative to gasoline tax they studied over a decade ago.

      Not everyone owns a smartphone: I know this is hard to believe but it is true. Even then not everyone carries it on their person or powered on at all times.
      These GPS tracking device WOULD have to be purchased and essentially given freely to everyone that bicycles to achieve the same count accuracy that a cheap fixed sensor counter will achieve.

      What is the current count on the Hawthorne Bridge counter?
      Divide the original purchase cost by the total bicycle count so far: the price per unit for a GPS tracker needs to be under this.
      Currently GPS tracking devices (for children) run from $15-$20.

      Omniscient knowledge is an interesting goal but all DOTs need is simple traffic counts.

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      • mrb January 15, 2015 at 3:44 am

        You vastly misunderstand how this system works. It’s more like those air tubes laid across the road to count cards. Nothing is placed on a bike

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        • q`Tzal January 15, 2015 at 8:03 am

          How do I misunderstand it?

          If someone wants to use GPS it only has utility ON THE MOVING VEHICLE.
          There simply is no need nor logic in putting GPS on a stationary sensor. The sensor has been placed, you already know where it is, it isn’t moving: WHAT PURPOSE DOES GPS SERVE ON A FIXED SENSOR?

          Maybe if you deploy the sensors by dropping them from the orbiting International Space Station you wouldn’t know where your own sensors are otherwise GPS on a fixed sensor serves only to pad someone’s profit margin.

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    • Richard January 15, 2015 at 12:33 am

      Because obviously you would need per cyclist devices.. Which seems to totally ignore the reason for this clever technology.

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    • Brian January 15, 2015 at 9:42 am

      The cost to build and maintain a city owned App like Strava would not be sustainable. Most apps have a life cycle of 3 months so this app would need to have constant improments and marketing to keep the population engaged. That is not something goverments can sustain.

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  • Tom January 14, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Lame, the app referred to in the article is only on the apple phone.

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    • John Lascurettes January 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      For now.

      When piloting something it’s easier to develop for iOS first for many developers. There’s tomes written on the subject as to why, and many dissenting opinions as to why Android is better. It comes down to developer preference mostly. Point being, when something is in early development, you don’t waste your time developing for multiple platforms and devices until you’re sure it’s a workable model. I’m willing to bet with wide adoption they’d either develop an Android app or open up their APIs so indie developers could create one for them on any other smartphone platform.

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      • Nate Young January 19, 2015 at 3:53 pm

        Yes but…
        If they are looking for a volume play, there are ~2x more android phones…

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        • John Lascurettes January 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm

          Numbers of phones do not equate to people downloading and using apps. Talk to any mobile app developer – most that charge money for apps will make more money from iOS users, because iOS users are more active consumers of their phones and data plans.

          Nearly any phone sold these days is a “smartphone” in that if someone doesn’t specify what model of phone they want, they’re still walking out of the store with an Android. Doesn’t mean they will do anything advanced with it. Everybody’s grandma and grandpa get Android phones now. My mother in law has no clue how to use hers. So “~2x more” marketshare doesn’t mean everything.

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  • Brian January 14, 2015 at 11:53 am

    This tool actually blended with Strava Metro could be a serious win for everyone. The Metro data cycle and ped gets amplified when merged with good counting data. If this can be spread across a metro region then the Strava Metro data can be correlated to more specific region within a city network. This can then help to further answer the deeper questions that were asked in article, because actually Strava Metro does and has answered many of these proposed questions. However, it does it even better with strong correlation counts:
    /quote Does a neighborhood greenway increase or decrease biking on nearby commercial streets? Do certain designs appeal more to midday travelers than to rush-hour travelers? How do seasons or construction zones affect people’s route or mode choices?

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  • Matt- Bike Milwaukie January 14, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    I’m guessing this device can be adjusted to count pedestrians? If so, it might make a good counter for pedestrians in areas that lack sidewalks, like Clackamas County.

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  • Bob Shanteau January 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    The magnetic detection concerns me. Magnetic detectors rely on the object being detected having ferromagnetic material close to the device, and modern bicycles have very little ferromagnetic material. Rims are usually made of aluminum, frames are aluminum or carbon, and I have found that my stainless steel spokes are not ferromagnetic (a magnet does not stick to the spokes). Bottom bracket spindles and hub axles are usually made of steel, but they are not massive enough or close enough to the ground to be detected by an in-pavement device.

    Where is this device installed? In the pavement? If so, what kind of range does it have?

    Has the accuracy of the device been measured? If so, how? What is the accuracy of the counts for different circumstances (speed, weather, lateral position of cyclists in the roadway, etc.)?

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    • q`Tzal January 14, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      This is metal detection not magnetic detection.

      Magnetic detection does require a ferrous metal and a magnet.

      Metal detectors work by projecting a rapidly oscillating magnetic field in to a space. ANY conductive substance will absorb (like an antenna) some of the field and release the energy back out (out of phase with the transmitter and at lower energy), the metal detector only needs to be sensitive to pick up a change.

      This works with all metals. A bamboo or carbon fiber frame will still have metal fittings, gears and a chain. Clothing often has snaps and buttons. House keys, SPD clips, pedals, spare change: the most mundane of human detritus has more than enough metal for a metal detector circuit to trigger. If you’ve ever used an old metal detector to go “treasure hunting” you learned to tweak the sensitivity low because they can screech for anything seemingly.

      The metal detector could just a basic wake up call for the infrared camera: detect something human has gone by, check for heat. By ignoring super strong return signals from large hunks of metal while gauging the speed with which the unknown human thingy went thru the metal detection zone we can accumulate several data points that reliably say “that was a bicycle”.

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      • John Lascurettes January 14, 2015 at 4:42 pm

        This is exactly why traffic loops (normally) will still pick up your bike in Portland even if it’s a bamboo frame (because of all the other metallic parts, particularly the rims or spokes).

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        • soren January 19, 2015 at 3:15 pm

          Not my experience at all. For example the loop detectors at Terwilliger and SW Sam Jackson Park Rd have never once detected my commuters. Moreover, my success rate at other loop detectors is about 50-60% with alloy wheels. (It’s effectively zero with carbon wheels.)

          PS: My shopping bike with moderately heavy wheels is reliably detected.

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      • dr2chase January 14, 2015 at 5:31 pm

        There’s a “yes-but” at work here. Yes, it is conductive metal detection not magnetic metal detection, but if the device has a small antenna, it’s not going to do that good a job at detecting small metal objects at a range that is “large” compared to the size of the detector or the object. The easiest things to detect should be (waves hands) large metal loops, like aluminum rims and frame triangles.

        I’m pretty sure that the usual part of a bike detected by traffic sensors is the rims — they’re big loops, and they’re very much closer to the traffic sensor (if the loop is 5 inches down in the pavement, then the frame is 3x further away than the rims). Aluminum is also about a 3x better conductor than steel, not sure whether a rim or a frame tube has a larger cross section.

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        • q`Tzal January 14, 2015 at 7:11 pm

          A garden variety sub $50 metal detector can be so sensitive that it can give distinct audible feedback of a penny tossed over 20′ away. The problem at that point is it seems to detect atmospheric anomalies too.
          We don’t need to set a metal detector sensitive enough to pick up a gnat’s flatulence; just the chain and gears of a single speed far exceed the metal worn by even the most pierced Portland hipster.

          Secondarily, the sensor in the article is more than one input: metallic sensing and infrared sensing. I don’t know the exact design of this device but my guess is that:
          () it waits for something to enter the empty metal detection space
          () it starts a stopwatch and turns on the infrared sensor
          () it compares the total signal strength and ±2 & ±3 sigma time points on a tangent plot
          () IF there is infrared feedback that indicates a human outside of a rolling glass and metal cage
          AND the metal signal strength is lower than “car” but higher than “piercing demigod”
          AND the speed profile is within a rough range for bicycles
          THEN it’s probably a bicycle.

          I’d love to have a 3rd sensor like:
          () a microphone tuned to pick up only the sound of small tire noise on pavement or the subtle squeaking of even the most well lubricated gears
          () a seismic sensor again tuned for light weight wheeled vehicles discarding events from mopeds or heavier AND the impact heel strikes of walkers and runners

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  • TStiers January 14, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Commercial solutions already exist for this problem.

    We use radar, magnetometers can be flakey.

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    • Jonathan Gordon January 14, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Can you please share with us these commercial solutions that cost $50 or less?

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  • Dorothy Gale January 14, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    $50 is prohibitive … They need to engage the city government in a city-wide, subsidized “registration” program that also includes a lo-jack and even a wireless sports-computer that logs any pertinint parameters … Speed, distance, route, elapsed time, daily, weekly, monthly averages and that would come with a suite of simple apps and would transmit standard delimited data files to the cloud. … The subsidy agreement would trade the privacy of your data for a nearly free device (and apps).

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    • mrb January 15, 2015 at 3:40 am

      So $50 per device is too much but the city should track down and register every biker? I’d wager that would be an effort costing millions if not tens of millions.

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    • Duncan Parks January 19, 2015 at 8:03 am

      There seem to be many on this thread who think that the $50 device is installed on the bike. That’s the price of the detector; nothing needs to be added to a bike to get it counted (if everything works). That really is dirt-cheap for a useful detector!

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  • mrb January 15, 2015 at 3:38 am

    I’d be careful not to conflate the inadequacies of the current counting methodology with the promise of this approach – there are many cheap ways to count bikes.

    Personally I’m very dubious about this, my suspicion is the calibration won’t be consistent from location to location and the standard error will be large compared to volume – making evaluation difficult if you are trying to observe, say, a ten percent change in cycling volume or whatever.

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    • q`Tzal January 15, 2015 at 8:06 am

      Which are you selling?

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    • paikiala January 15, 2015 at 9:08 am

      Compared to what better technology?

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  • Al January 20, 2015 at 9:32 am

    I already know how certain intersections make me feel. More so, I know how they make other cyclists feel too because I talk to them but nobody has ever bothered to ask. I think this device is a great idea, a clever implementation of both social and technical engineering. I hope it promotes all of the things cyclists enjoy.

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  • Elizabeth January 21, 2015 at 5:12 am

    With Portland’s growth trend, infill in Southeast, condos and apartments without parking any move towards better understanding of biking traffic is nothing but positive. The possibilities of application of the statistics gathered from platforms such as this is invaluable. It leads towards much broader trend data that in the future can be applied toward multiple areas. If we are to direct Portland into the truly livable place it strives to be, bike commuting must be at the forefront. Projects like this will help research routes for Vancouver, Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Gresham and other outlying areas with and incorporation of Max and buses. When future benefits are considered, the cost noted here should be regarded as small and inconsequential at this stage of research.

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  • Chris H. January 23, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    So I’m currently using tracking technology called TrackR ( https://www.thetrackr.com/ ) . I’m all for locally grown technology but TrackR has this beat on price and deployments. Hopefully Portland CIty Council has done due diligence and looked to see what existing technology is already available instead of paying more $$ to be a beta tester for a startup.

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    • Jonathan Gordon January 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      I’m not sure you get what this device does: It doesn’t go on the bike, it goes in the streets and detects bikes. This way all bikes get counted, not only the bikes who have a device on them.

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      • Chris H. February 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm

        OK, thanks for the clarification. Sounds like a better fit than having to depend on people carrying technology. (ie. trackr)

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  • Bruce W February 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    So, did Portland get the grant to purchase the Knock Software bike counters? Is there a website with more info about the counters?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) February 27, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      The request (not really a grant, just a transfer from one budget to another) was indeed funded. The last link in the post is the only one I’m aware of right now.

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      • William Henderson March 2, 2015 at 9:20 am

        That (and this post) are currently our only public presence. If you’d like to find out more, please contact us via the link on the website. Otherwise, I’m sure watching Bike Portland will be an effective way to keep up with our progress =).

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        • Matt May 8, 2015 at 10:41 am

          Trying to get an update on this story. Not easy to find Knock Software or other news about this project.

          So, could you post the link you are referring to again?

          Thx.

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          • William Henderson August 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm

            Check out http://ride.report. More coming very soon…

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            • Brendan March 8, 2016 at 3:28 am

              What’s the latest on this? Are the sensors installed? How are they working? Thanks.

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              • Ben April 8, 2016 at 3:53 pm

                Very keen to hear too – not interested in the Ride.Report, interested in the sensor and if that ever went anywhere or not?

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