Bicycle barometer effort picks up steam

Posted by on March 28th, 2007 at 9:22 am

Michael Downes hopes to bring
a “bicycle barometer” to Portland.

Michael Downes is relatively new to Portland but he has wasted no time in getting involved with the bike community.

After reading an article about a bicycle barometer in Italy, Downes thought it would be a perfect fit for Portland and now he has set off to make it happen.

He has started a blog for the project and he came to a recent Shift meeting to share his ideas and get feedback.

Downes said he thinks a bicycle barometer — which would display a live count of how many bicycles cross under it (among other things) — would be, “A powerful affirmation for the growing group of bicyclists in this town.”

But beyond that, he also said he hopes it can serve as an effective way to collect data about the number of cyclists on bikeways (a number that has proven to be elusive to city and state transportation officials).

Bicycle barometer installed in Bolzano, Italy.
Can’t you see one of these on the Springwater Corridor?
Photo: ELTIS

Other ideas Downes is exploring include;

  • making it solar powered and wi-fi enabled to allow remote data gathering;
  • integrating art into the structure;
  • displaying temperature and air quality readings.

He envisions the potential of not just one, but a citywide network of them.

He also wants to construct a mobile version of the barometer as a proof of concept that could be installed at events like Breakfast on the Bridge,

“That way people get to stop and I could discuss the project with them and get some feedback and hopefully drum up some support and interest. ”

Downes says the bicycle barometer currently in use in Italy was built for $20,000 and that he’s looking into partnerships and other possibilities for funding.

If you have suggestions for where a bicycle barometer should be placed in Portland, please share them in the comments. To get involved with this project, you can contact Michael at michaeldownesdesign@hotmail.com.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Dabby
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Dabby

I do not see this as a feasible expenditure of finances, even at 20,000 dollars.

Let alone a network of them…….

We can see how many people ride down the streets here… We really don’t need the convienence of having them counted…

How many homeless people would that feed?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Dabby,

it’s not a matter of being “feasible”. this has nothing to do with any official city monies.

this is one guy’s idea and he’s trying to make it happen.

no one knows where the funding will come from and if/when it does, it’s up to Michael to make it all pencil out.

if he lines up the funding, gets partners on board, and makes it happen, more power to him!

I think these things would be cool.

I also think feeding hungry people is cool. But I don’t think the two have anything to do with each other.

thanks.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
Guest
Attornatus_Oregonensis

There will always be people who say things can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done. There will always be people who use unrelated issues to try to detract from creative efforts to try to raise the profile of cycling and build a stronger sense of community. If these people were listened to, we’d still live in the Stone Age.

Great job, Michael! Thanks for taking a leadership role on this. Your fellow cyclists appreciate your efforts. This is yet another block in building Bike City.

Raspy7
Guest
Raspy7

Dabby

How many homeless people would it feed for us to sell our bikes and walk to work?

$20,000 is lamost nothing in the scheme of things, the possible new Columbia River bridge is estimated at a conservative $6 BILLION. The bloody tram was what, $85M? For 20K we could put one on every corner out to Gresham for the price of a tram, or for the price of that godawful new convention center, or it’s addition, or the proposed hotel!

This city makes hideous financial decisions with taxpayer money every day. If they made this one, no one would notice.

n8m
Guest
n8m

Could these also be done as Village Building Convergence projects via City Repair?

WOBG
Guest
WOBG

How about putting it, not on the Springwater Corridor, but on the Hawthorne Bridge—where it would serve not only as an affirmation to cyclists, but also as a testament and an invitation to motorists?

Maybe it could be installed over only the bike portion of the path there—if it could be suspended from above rather than sitting atop poles—so that you would have to ride in the bike portion to be counted. That might help reinforce the lane separation for cyclists and peds.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

WOBG,

love the bridge idea… we talked about that but figured there might be too much red tape to get one on a bridge… at least for now. maybe, once they’ve been proven somewhere else it would be possible.

sh
Guest
sh

An interesting idea on a so many levels: it creates excitement within the community by showing “how many served” on a bike path; it increases visibilty for the body of cyclists in the area by providing a live count; and it provides some numbers that other organizations can use when lobbying for cycling’s share of the pie. (The idea of one on the Burnside or Hawthorne bridge where motorists can see it is v. cool.)

I like it. And I give major, major, MAJOR props to Michael for taking an idea and working hard to make it happen — action v. talk reflects the cultural spirit of our busy little city, and it’s exactly this kind of initiative that makes pdx so remarkably Especiale.

AO, I dig your framing of creating our Bike City one pedal rotation at a time. It resonates with every small story that’s posted here, from velodrome initiatives to Bike Stations to Bike Barometers…small actions growing into large movements. Thinking within this construct makes a transportation paradigm shift seem entirely plausible and super-exciting. More bikes, more better.

dabby
Guest
dabby

My reference to the homeless is a statement that makes sense depending on how you look at it… I use that statemet a lot, showing that many things being funded, or thoughts of funding, are not for the greater good….and certainly not helping to get people, and families, off the streets, which, by the way, is more important than bicycling……..

In the big, or small scheme of things, $20,000 dollars is not a small amount of money. I guess if you need to bring up every project cost between these two extremes, you could make it seem small….But it isn’t.

As I see from Attornewhatever above, he, and others hate to hear alternative thoughts on subjects. Throughout these comment postings, I see this as a pattern….

Yet, this is why there is a open forum format here, from what I understand…… In order to share thoughts, and not always the thoughts you want to hear……

People do not like to have it mentioned that a idea may not be so good, or should not be taken at face value……..

This is why I type what my thoughts and idea’s are, instead of just echoing the sentiment of others…. going along for the ride as it may be…….

It takes questions to get answers….

This may be a perfectly good idea….

But…..

Seeing a clicker snap off that you rode under it will not be fixing our problems.

Not even one of them….

David
Guest
David

I think it is discouraging that every idea on these pages gets poo-poo’d by someone from our own community.

To every action, there is an associated opportunity cost, but that cost is going to impact everyone differently. It is unfortunate that we constantly discourage others from doing good because we feel it is not idealistic enough. There are a whole grip of issues facing the bicycle community and to work through them we will need a lot of people working a lot of different angles. There is no single solution.

If you think there are more important issues, by all means, pursue them. But please don’t pretend that nothing else should be accomplished outside the scope of your own priorities.

When a cyclist takes a bike path they are invisible to voters, commuters, and policy makers. A bike barometer would facilitate public awareness. It objectively shows that people really are utilizing bike paths and that the money spent on the infrastructure isn’t wasted. It will allow direct comparisons between a bike paths and roads. Commuter per commuter and dollar per dollar we will be able to objectively demonstrate that bike paths are safer and more economical than roads. Combined with surveys we will be able to show that bike paths are more enjoyable, healthier, and better for communities. A barometer will also facilitate public awareness by allowing people to speak knowledgably about the impact of the trails. People like the objectivity of facts and the simplicity of numbers.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
Guest
Attornatus_Oregonensis

“As I see from Attorn[atus_Oregonensis] above, he, and others hate to hear alternative thoughts on subjects.”

That’s right, Dippy. I hate it. In fact, I even hate the idea of alternatives. But here’s the question for you: Why do you hate Freedom?

mike
Guest
mike

Hmm. Dabby – I seem to be picking up on a trend. New and/or costs money and you are immediately against it.
What exactly is your problem? And no, I do not mean on this one topic.
You seem to be the most anti-cycling culture cyclist that I have ever known. (Wow, that was a mouthful when said out loud)

Also- Instead of using the homeless as your cop out reason for why anything should NOT take place, come up with an idea to help them. Perhaps a cycling related food drive/charity ride/whatever.
If you truly believe in the Homeless cause, show it. Maybe you would get a lot of support instead of Dabby-esque responses as to why it would fail. And just maybe, in addition to helping the homeless, you would gain a little more respect as someone who is actually offering alternatives. You know… instead of just dismissing all ideas that are not your own.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

In reference to some other above comments…….

Poo Pooing Idea’s…….

One man’s Poo is another man’s fertilizer. (I have no idea what that mean’s, but I wanted to type it..)

Once again, this is a public forum…..
if you don’t like to read what I post, skim over it.

I do not have to, nor will I, patronize you by agreeing with ideas that seem (to me) silly, or frivilous.
I will however, offer alternative thoughts on idea’s, or maybe an idea of what should really be concentrated on.

I have a lot of experience in this town, on my bike to share…….

Many people are new here, as with the suggester of this idea being implemented here. That is fine….

Many people have lived here, but are relatively new to cycling. This is also great..

Riding on these streets is my life. Not my commute. Not my fanciful way to spend a couple of evening hours.
My Life…

Sad but true…..

This is where my comments and thoughts come from. Not from anger. Not from being against the establishment.

But from years of watching cycling grow beyond it’s means in the City of Portland.

Regarding using such a sign to bring awareness to drivers…….and others…

Such a sign as this would not be allowed by the city in a place where commuters (as in drivers) would be able to see it. At least not in a manner that would be effective in the cause of awareness at all.
Especially in a location as suggested above, like the Hawthorne Bridge onramp, or, even more as suggested, on the bridge itself.

The last thing the city is going to allow is a visual distraction to an already distracting and over crowded public river crossing.

Facilitating public awareness?

The way to do this is to ride your bike on the street, in the traffic, and make your presence known..

Sharing the Road as it is being called now….

Tooling down a bike path (as nice as they may appear to be) designed to move us off the roads, where we have a right to be, is against all manners of increasing bicycle awareness.

Plugging intersections with a critical mass is against all manners of bicycle awareness.

Riding responsibly in the road, where we have a right, and actually, in parts of our town, is the only legal place to ride, is the way to increase public awareness.

Excuse me for my rant here, but that is what happens when my idea’s are, how did you put it?

Poo-Pooed?

pdxrocket
Guest
pdxrocket

Would this type of device be able to distinguish cyclist from walker? If not, then shouldn’t it be called something like: Life Barometer?

sh
Guest
sh

I think Dabby, that you are confusing Hatred of Alternative Thoughts with the Utter Tedium of Enduring Bizarre Threads of Logic anytime someone has the proactive energy to kick out an idea that might possibly benefit the cycling community, yet does not benefit you specifically and immediately.

Egocentrism…yawn.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

I think Dabby makes good points, he just has a unique style of delivery ;-).

I respect his many years of riding on (and making his living on) the streets of Portland and I think we should all give him fair ground to stand on in making his thoughts known.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Lay off Dabby. He is a much needed devil’s advocate on this blog. I appreciate the fact that he brings some common sense and perspective to cycling issues gleaned from making a living on his bike. The fact is that Dabby rides a helluva lot more than most of us and sees things differently than the average commuter does.

I tend to agree with most of his viewpoints. We should be focusing on the things that make cycling safer and more viable rather than get caught up in esoterica like automated bike counters, tax breaks for riders, and like “cosmetic” things. As a “minority” figuratively speaking, we have limited political and financial clout and those limited resources should be focused on infrastructure and legal issues first.

Personally, I’d rather have more sharrows, bike lanes, and a 3 Foot Rule before bike barometers and velodromes. Why use political capital and tax dollars on “feel good” items before basics?

Lenny Anderson
Guest

Couldn’t we just get PDOT to hook up their traffic count devices to a reader board? On the Hawthorne Bridge for daily real time bicycle counts?
PS to Tram trashers…its probably the best deal the City ever made…creating more jobs, inducing more private investment than anything PDX has ever done.

sh
Guest
sh

I agree with you Jonathon that there’s a unique quality to Dabby’s delivery which we all find amusing, however i would qualify the rest of that statement with the thought that he *occasionally* makes good points, but more frequently chooses to negatively crit the ideas or actions of others in a very unconsidered and nonsensical way that frankly has become tiresome.

To Brad’s point at 17, i wonder why you feel compelled to create an either/or argument regarding the bike barometer idea and say, the broad category of “legal issues.” Why exactly can’t one support both? You think a barometer is frivolous? That’s cool, then don’t go outta your way to support it. However, the argument that everyone should only work toward forwarding “legal and infrastructure” issues (and apparently nothing else) exhibits extremely narrow thinking, and feels argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.

Why can’t i support “cosmetic” things (like friggin’ bike barometers) while i support sharrows? Guess what, some of us are open enough to do both! The basics take time, a long time sometimes, the feel good stuff excites and encourages us to keep the energy flowing for the diligence that basic legislation requires. In my mind, our “political capital” is well-spent on both.

It cracks me up how you guys are dissing an idea that someone is self-initiating, attempting to finance privately and will likely be thought to be cool by many cyclists and non-cyclists. This barometer, if realized, will affect you in NO negative way whatsoever, yet you can’t help shooting it down, down, down.

How exactly is this sort of negative exercise contributing to the political capital of cyclists? And how is the bright idea of a Bike Barometer squandering it, huh? huh?

Elly
Guest
Elly

Count me in the “super excited about the bike barometer” camp. It’ll probably cost less than a speed bump and it’s a million times more fun.

Bike stuff is like antique shops, the higher concentration you have in any one area, the more customers they all get. This project won’t be competing with others, it’ll be bolstering them. So keep it all coming!

David
Guest
David

Very rarely are bicycle solutions mutually exclusive since there isn’t one set of resources dedicated to all bike projects. Most of funding for velodromes, tax breaks, bike stations, and barometers would be coming from entirely different sources with independent justifications. The energy for these projects are also coming from different people with different abilities and priorities.

I will likely never use a velodrome, but I consider the project an asset to the community.

Bike paths I use daily. Without bike paths I would not be a cyclist. I would not be supporting our local bike shops, I would not be riding my bike to Big City Produce, I would not be plugging my local grocer on BikePortland, I would not be arriving at work in my cycle regalia and talking with my coworkers about my bicycling experience, I would not be signing up for charitable rides, and I would not be planning a bike trip to the coast this weekend.

A couple months before the Springwater bridge was open, I was sitting in traffic on 99E and saw a cyclist flying about 15 feet in the air after getting hit by a speeding truck which ran the red light. If the bridge for the trail had been completed he would not have been hit. The cyclist was wearing a helmet and was fortunate enough to walk away with only a couple of scratches, but he could have just as easily been dead. I agree that ideally bicyclists shouldn’t retreat from the streets, but I know drivers aren’t safe and I would much rather ride on separate trails.

You see bike paths stealing road cyclists, which happens, but bike paths also stole me from Trimet.

Every proposal on BikePortland is met by someone with criticism and that frustrates me. Criticism is necessary for a healthy discussion but we should use it more sparingly and with more care, because detracting from one bike project is rarely going to enrich another.

peejay
Guest
peejay

If the bike barometer is visible enough to the average non-biker, like on the Hawthorne Bridge (but also quite a few other places), it raises awareness of Bike City in a way that is just like good public service advertising, building the ‘brand” of Bike City, and leading to the acceptance and eventual funding of more bike infrastructure. Think of it as seed money for future investment. It seems frivolous to some here, but changing public opinion is a vital part of bike advocacy. We are all trying to lead by example and so forth, but we need more than just that to reach the mindset of most car commuters in this city. Would a barometer put us over the top? Probably not, but it seems like a small price to pay. (Dabby, if you think $20K is too much, how about we do some volunteer labor and build it ourselves. I bet a couple grand of parts and a weekend’s worth of work could get the thing together. That’s less than the price of a Kawasaga track frame.)

We’re also selling the idea of bikes to the casual cyclist. Everytime they make the clicker go, they feel more a part of the movement, and more inclined to ride more often.

I know I’m speaking pop-psychology, a field where nothing is provable, therefore nothing is wrong. But it seems right to me!

peejay
Guest
peejay

And by “we,” Dabby, I didn’t mean you and me, since you’re not interested in this project. I meant the BikePortland readership in general.

ian
Guest
ian

I am all for open discussion, it is a neccesary part of dialog.
Dabby, your comments are not a different opinion. your comments are meant to change the discussion to your topic. everytime something is proposed on this board that costs any money, your answer is “what about the homeless”?
Maybe you should find a homeless forum to discuss these issues, but this forum is about BIKES!!!!!
How many homeless could Ira feed with the money it costs to go to Iowa??
How many homeless could Mark Ginsberg, Hazel, and Scott Bricker feed with the money they spent going to Salem today?? oh right-that one affects you directly so you wouldn’t comment.
You get the jist.
Jonathan, I know how you feel about Dabby, but I think you should have some ground rules.

Martha
Guest
Martha

I aggree that this is a good idea; and while I think it would be awesome on the hawthorne bridge I think a bike path is also an excellent place for it because drivers are generally pretty unaware of those paths. Having a barometer somewhere on the path where motorists could see it would certainly searve to raise awareness and the barometer’s mere existance would provide hard data about the number of cyclists out there and would encourage cyclists to ride more. I know I’d be that much more likely to go for a ride just for the sake of a ride if I got to pass such a thing.

All in all, I don’t think this is just a “feel good” thing, but I think that’s a part of it and an important part at that. half the reason I ride at all is it makes me feel good. In a world where so many people have health problems linked to stress, what’s wrong with doing something now and then just to feel good?

michael downes
Guest

Blimey! I never imagined my project would cause such a stir. I feel somewhat intimidated. I am encouraged to read that most of you think its a cool idea and worth pursuing. And in response to Dabby: I do think the homeless should be fed and, I believe, by & large they are being fed. The money for this project would a) not come out of transportation budgets if I can help it and b) will not result in a neat pile of dollars bills ready to feed the homeless should the project be abandoned. Is it frivolous? Not if you think promoting cycling is important and I do.

edward
Guest
edward

I think this is a fab idea.

I also think you all are a bunch of loonies for suggesting dissent be squashed. Why even have a comment section on the blog if we all are required or expected to be in agreement?

I would rather hear 100 people in complete disagreement with one another, than 10 people telling one person to shut up.

Or one person after another gushing after every idea with the word bike in it. Hopeless optimism is just as bad as hopeless negativism to me. Unabashed, non-critical boosterism scares me more than any bizarre logic or opinions.

Talk about unproductive.

You people shouting down dabby are cluttering and derailling the thread more than he ever could. And now sadly, I am too.

Burr
Guest
Burr

Oooohhh! Fab!!!!!
😉

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

ian said,
“Jonathan, I know how you feel about Dabby, but I think you should have some ground rules.”

I don’t want to make “rules,” because I moderate with my gut. There will never be guidelines for commenting on this site because I don’t believe in doing anything to alter or discourage people’s feedback.

As the site grows, the community around it changes and things are always in flux… but there have been close to 16,000 comments left on this site and the vast majority of them have been O.K.

The system (community) tends to self-correct itself. This thread is a good example of that. I like organic corrections over heavy-handed policies.

SKIDmark
Guest
SKIDmark

Dabby’s opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s.

Carl
Guest
Carl

Thank you, Michael Downes, for having an idea and persuing it. A bike barometer might not curb bike accidents or hunger, but it will certainly makes a unique contribution to Portland’s status as a creative city that loves bikes. I hope we can help you make this a reality.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

By the way folks, in the past I have told Jonathan that he should make sure and delete or moderate anything I post, that may seem to not belong, or that may be uncalled for, as I know I can be outspoken…

I have gone so far as to call or email, asking him to delete certain posts I have made.

And strangely, some of these requests were denied, with him saying he liked the post…

And some have been removed …….

Do not give him a hard time for not moderating “His” site as he see’s fit.

I have already given him executive privilidge over anything I write here…..

By the way, I do not “hate” the idea of a bicycle barometer…….. Never have..

I just don’t love it…..

Jeff S
Guest
Jeff S

Michael, thanks for pursuing this idea —

here’s a funding thought: Oregon has a Percent for Art requirement as part of public works projects; that’s what funded the fun stuff along the Springwater trail, the Interstate MAX, & i would guess the Bus Mall (ok, some of those mall sculptures are pretty questionable, but it was the ’70’s so they probably seemed good at the time…)

TriMet is spending about a 1/2 mil $ on art as part of the I-205 MAX.:

http://www.trimet.org/i205/publicart.htm

Maybe too late for this, but there may be other opportunities; the Barometer is a obviously a logical tie-in to transportation projects.

Scott Mizée
Guest

happy to revive an old memory and see the
link to this story in today’s BikePortland.

What’s going on with it these days? Why the frizzle? Did people run into jurisdictional roadblocks?

John Petter
Guest

Hey i have never before heard about bicycle barometer and i like it.
when i think that how it looks and how it works then i think that it is really difficult to think but when i read your post then i have clear all my questions.
thanks