Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A "bicycle barometer" in Portland?

Posted by on March 16th, 2007 at 2:35 pm

I was included in an email forward today that linked to an interesting device called a “bicycle barometer” recently installed in Italy.

The story and photos were posted to a website that covers urban transport and mobility in Europe.

Bicycle barometer installed in Bolzano, Italy.
Photo: ELTIS

The device displays the number of cyclists passing by (each way) and was modeled after similar ones in Norway, Denmark, and Stockholm.

Here’s more info (excuse the translation):

“The main goal of the action is getting people aware (and surprised) how many cyclists are actually passing through this measurement point. This will lead to a better identification with the bike mobility in the city as a system and getting people to cycle more.”

One of the folks in the email I received said:

“I think it would be great “art” project for the Hawthorne bridge. You could have a running total for cars, bikes, and peds. It could be a ‘race’ per day to see which mode tops it. The local news / weather crews could then report on it when they also mention the peak hour gridlock at [name you favourite choke point].”

So far no one has found a price, but it sure would be neat to have one of these in Portland. Don’t you think some streets/bridges would have more bikes than cars?

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  • ben March 16, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    i would love to see some of them here. especially on the bridges.

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  • Scout March 16, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    I think it would be a cool idea, even if it simply encouraged people already riding their bikes to get out and ride more often. It would be even better, though, if it could inspire people driving or riding the bus to ride their bikes or walk simply by seeing that so many other people are out there doing the same thing.

    (Also, as a bridge worker, I have to say that [sadly] I don’t think there’s a single bridge in town– except ones on bike paths– which has more bikes than cars each day. Maybe this idea could be one small step in that direction, though.)

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  • DK March 16, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    We already have a wet weather barometer on the eastbank esplanade. When you go under one of the bridges, on wet pavement, take a look at the number of tire tracks left behind (of course bikes will leave two tracks for the most part). Unfortunately when it’s raining there aren’t very many. You know who you are, so get some gear. Goodwill is loaded with it for pennies on the dollar.

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  • 'Jefe March 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    What a great way to re-enforce cycling as a social norm, and also a great way to re-introduce cycling to individuals who have forgotten the simple joys that cycling can bring. Also, imagine the interesting view it would give grid-locked drivers on the freeway if it were to be placed on the Hawthorne bridge! Traffic jam participants could watch the displayed numbers rise as they loose time in their car.

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  • Carlos March 16, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I like the idea of motivation with numbers. I have a cycle computer to keep me inspired to ride more and keep the stats piling up. Bridge barometers would be another feather in the cap of Portland bike commuters. We could tell people how many of us ride everyday. I’m proud of our cycling community and think we need to bolster it in every way possible.

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  • Donna March 17, 2007 at 11:47 am

    They sure would be beautiful to behold on the Hawthorne and Broadway – to start with.

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  • Raspy7 March 17, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    If high numbers are what we were after, I think SE Ankeny would be the best location.

    It’s almost a giant bike path rather than an automobile road.

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  • michael downes March 17, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Sounds like an excellent idea. I think it could be quite feasible for Portland. You have a city that is sympathetic to bicycles, a growing tech sector that could supply technology and hardware and quite a few custom frame builders who could fashion some unique and artistic ‘barometers'(we should try to avoid the freeway toll booth aesthetic adopted by our friends in Italy). Even better if it could be completed in time for the ‘Car Free Cities Conference’ in 2008. I think it is a cool project and worth pursuing. If any one else feels the same they should contact me and we can discuss a plan of action.

    Michael (michaeldownesdesign@hotmail.com)

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  • びっくり March 18, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I live in Tsu, Mie, Japan. We could post one on a bike path here and be surprised, by the number of sub-compact cars that drive through. I have been surprised a couple of times in tunnels.

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  • Scott Mizée March 19, 2007 at 4:40 am

    LOL! びっくり, I love the comment about the number of sub-compact cars on the bike paths and in the tunnels. We are just beginning to see “Smart Cars” around here, so we don’t have many sub-compacts to deal with. I DO remember being surprised when I ran into such a phenomenon in and around Amsterdam also.

    Regarding the “BB” here, I think it is a great idea–and should be fairly simple to build with parts and technology readily available. Heck if we switched the “Your Speed Is __mph” sign on North Willamette to count the number of vehicles, instead, we could probably achieve SOME degree of accuracy. No, I am not suggesting we count Bike Traffic on North Willamette at this point, but I am suggesting that simplified versions could be posted around the city.

    I think someone really needs to get behind this idea and organize into a group to get things moving. Any volunteers? I’d love to, but I’m currently tapped out.

    Enjoy the rain this week everyone!

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  • michael downes March 19, 2007 at 9:36 am

    I managed to get in touch with Rene Rinner who instigated this program in Bolzano, Italy and he was able to supply some info on the technology used and the cost. Again, I think this is a worthy project and I urge anyone interested in getting this of the ground to contact me. I will create a blog this week to start promoting the idea and as a clearing house for discussion. My e-mail is: michaeldownesdesign@hotmail.com

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  • Scott Mizée March 20, 2007 at 4:23 am

    Sounds Great Michael! Looking forward to seeing the Blog!

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  • Martha March 20, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    I look forward to that blog too, I love this idea, and I know I’d feel motivated to ride more often. It also entertains me to think about drivers stuck in traffic seeing the number of people who passed through there that day without having to deal with the issues that come with a car.

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  • michael downes March 20, 2007 at 11:47 pm


    Nothing much on it yet but I expect to have much more to write about after I meet with the Shift people tomorrow.

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