PBOT preps for yearly bike counts

Detail of PBOT map showing where
counters will be stationed.
(Download PDF, 950K)

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is gearing up for their annual effort to count how many people are pedaling around our city.

Last year, 75 volunteers helped PBOT expand the scope of their counts to include 140 locations throughout the city. They found that Portland’s bike use showed a double-digit increase for the fourth straight year and that overall bike use in Portland shot up 28% between 2007 and 2008.

According to City Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller, the counts are vital to PBOT’s work. “They are an essential means of measuring the effectiveness of all our efforts to increase bicycle use and ‘to make the bicycle a part of daily life in Portland,’ as our policy states,” he wrote via email today.

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PBOT’s bike counts measure three main things: the number of cyclists, the gender split of cyclists, and their use of helmets.

Count ’em up!

Noted bike researcher John Pucher has found that countries with the most advanced bike infrastructure have men and women riding in equal numbers and Geller says Portland is improving, but has a ways to go to reach that benchmark. Last year, PBOT counts found that 32% of riders were female (up from just 26% in 1997).

Geller says the counts have local and national significance and that they help PBOT, “get a feel for how well people are responding to the potential for bicycle transportation in all parts of the city.” To that end, Geller plans to station volunteers in each of the City’s 32 Cycle Zones (we reported on those back in October) in order to get good baseline and continuing data about how effectively they’re addressing the varied barriers to bicycling found throughout town.

Another hot topic for the counts is data about helmet use. In Portland, where helmet use is not mandatory for adults, PBOT has found that more than 80% of riders counted had a helmet on. That number is up from less than 70% in 2000 and fewer than 45% in 1992.

To do the counting, PBOT will use some automated “hose” counts (mostly on bridges and selected paths) but most of the locations will rely on volunteers who do two-hour counts during the afternoon peak traffic period (4-6:00pm).

Someday perhaps Portland will install a high-tech, automated counter like the one installed in Copenhagen back in May. (There was an effort afoot in 2007 to bring one of these to Portland, but it has since fizzled out.)

If you’d like to help with the counts, PBOT still needs volunteers. They’ll hold a training this evening (Tuesday, 6/30) at the Portland Building (5:00 in Room C on the 2nd Floor of 1120 SW 5th Ave). If you can’t make it tonight but still want to volunteer, contact Denver Igarta or David Amiton at or

Learn more about Portland ridership numbers at this page on the PBOT website.

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