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Who was that guy with the clipboard? Bike count season is in full swing


bike count survey
Riders take a trails survey on the Hawthorne Bridge just before rush hour.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

It’s bike counting season again, and for the second year in a row there are two concurrent counts going on in Portland.

Last Thursday, riding east over the Hawthorne Bridge around 4:30pm, I stopped to take a short survey about regional trail use. The volunteer handing out the surveys, Jack, said that this process was part of a bike count, and that he was about to start counting for two hours.

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I called up David Amiton, the transportation planning intern for the City of Portland who is coordinating this year’s bike counting, to find out more about this year’s process.

Amiton says that there are two concurrent bike counts in Portland this year — the city’s annual summer bike counts, and for the second year in a row, a separate count as part of the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project (we wrote about the project last year here).

The city’s counts have expanded significantly every year, and now encompass 165 locations where volunteers count on a non-holiday Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday of their choosing in a given three month period.

Counting bikes on the Hawthorne.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

The national count (which I ran into) was conducted last week only, and included a number of cities in the region, including Portland and Vancouver, Washington. This count focuses on trails (including multi-use paths such as the Hawthorne Bridge sidewalks), and counts all users, including those traveling on foot, by bicycle, by skateboard, or other mode. This program also has an optional survey, completed separately from the actual counting, where users are asked about the origin and destination of their trip and their experience and preferences on the trail.

The tallies from both counts contribute significantly to the pool of bicycle data available to the city. Existing bicycle data, which you can find on PBOT’s website, also includes information from the city’s pneumatic counters on bridges, the annual City Auditor’s survey, which asks Portlanders about their primary and secondary commute vehicle (18% say bikes), and the U.S. Census.

Amiton is coordinating the city’s annual count, and is co-coordinating the national count in conjunction with Metro. The city includes some of the national count data in its annual count where appropriate, Amiton said. The real value of the national count, however, he said, is that the data will be included in federal transportation modeling — which often does not take bicycle and pedestrian trips into account.

“These models inform policy, funding for projects, design, project capacity, things like that,” Amiton said. “So if you don’t include bikes and pedestrians in the models, down the road it becomes harder to justify funding for bike and pedestrian facilities.”

The city will be done with its summer counts on September 30th, and the numbers are slated to be released by early November. The national numbers may take a while longer to process.

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