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Bicycle counter to go live this week on Hawthorne Bridge

Posted by on August 6th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

bike counter under wraps

Under wraps now; but it’ll start counting Wednesday.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Right on schedule, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has installed a bicycle counter on the Hawthorne Bridge. The device stands at the western end of the north side of the bridge, where the path splits down to Waterfront Park. It’s currently under wraps and not operational, but sources at PBOT tell me a press conference is planned for this Wednesday and the counter will be fully operational at that time.

Once up and running, this will be the first bicycle counter of its kind installed in a U.S. city in North America. Seattle announced a counter back in May, but to my knowledge, it has not yet been installed.

The counter not only gives Mayor and Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams a chance to proclaim another bicycle innovation “first” (at least for the U.S.), he can also tout that the counter was privately funded. The $20,000 piece of equipment purchased from Montreal-based firm Eco-Counter, was bought for the city by Cycle Oregon. The counter will also give Adams and PBOT staffers a way to demonstrate very publicly just how many people ride bicycles over the Hawthorne Bridge.

In their most recent counts, PBOT estimated that 8,044 people ride across the Hawthorne Bridge every day. That makes it by far the busiest bridge in Portland.

For their part, PBOT aims to glean valuable data from the counter. It’s one thing to have volunteers count bike traffic for a few hours a day and then extrapolate that over an entire year; but it’s much more valuable to traffic engineers and planners to have real-time, accurate data. The counter will be connected to hose counters strung across both sides of the bridge. The counter will show both a daily and ongoing tally of bike traffic (there’s also talk of the totals being streamed live on a website).

By having a more accurate picture of bicycle traffic, PBOT could learn things like: What’s the impact of weather on bicycle use? What percentage of Hawthorne Bridge users are on bicycles? Just how much is bicycling increasing in Portland? Will this type of public demonstration of bicycle use impact local attitudes about bicycling?

Stay tuned for more coverage following the press conference and grand opening event on Wednesday.

UPDATE: The news conference to launch the counter is set for Wednesday (8/8) at 10:00 am. More details here.

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  • Andrew K August 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm


    I saw the markings on the ground and the cones out this morning at 6am. Looks like they did some more work later in the day.

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  • CaptainKarma August 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I really really hate to say this, but I hope this is engineered to withstand the impact of a full can of redneck dumb@zz beer launched at it.

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  • Richard Allan August 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    But don’t believe for a minute that private funding will make a difference to the stridently anti-bike folks. Like the myth that the City is spending $600 million on bike facilities, it will become accepted fact that Sam Adams personally raided Water Bureau or gas tax funds to pay for the counter.

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    • Andrew K August 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      I wish I could say you are wrong, but unfortunately this is all too true.

      I can hear the voice of Lars Larson now complaining about all the “special” stuff bike riders get while the poor car drivers are discriminated against by the city of Portland all the while totally ignoring how this was funded.

      But still, just because a certain segment of the population chooses to ignore facts doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do these kinds of things.

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      • kittens August 7, 2012 at 1:29 am

        …which leads me to wish for a mayor and department of t who proudly proclaim their pro-bike-bias. Not mere complicity.

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  • bhance August 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Love it! Saw them a couple of days ago working on this but I think it was just so they could sink the bolts, because the next day it was gone.

    (Also: Wondering if the raw data will be made public for us computer-y nerds to see?)

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  • John Lascurettes August 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Very cool to see one getting installed in Portland.

    Is it just the angle of the photo or is that blocking the view of the wayfinding sign? I don’t take the Hawthorne so I don’t know.

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  • spare_wheel August 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    A great idea but in the wrong location. IMO, signs showing bike counts on PDX bridges should be suspended over west-bound Highway 26 and/or north-bound I5.

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  • Spiffy August 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

    That makes it by far the busiest bridge in Portland.

    which is saying a lot for a bridge with no separate dedicated bicycle access…

    maybe the counter will some day convince them to give the outside bridge lane to bicycles…

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  • Robert Spurlock August 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

    There is a second EcoCounter installed in the metro area. Metro installed one on the Tonquin Trail in Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville last year. It doesn’t have a visual display, so it’s not as cool as the new one on the Hawthorne Bridge, but we’ve been collecting really useful data from it that has helped us make the case that regional trails and bike paths are extremely popular for both both bicyclists and pedestrians, and for both transportation and recreation. The folks at EcoCounter have been great to work with. I’m working to get more EcoCounters installed on other trails in the region, so stay tuned!

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  • Roger August 7, 2012 at 11:12 am

    How does it differentiate between bikes and pedestrians and other users, ie skateboarders, runners pushing a strollers, etc?

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  • Todd Boulanger August 7, 2012 at 11:47 am

    This is very exciting for Portland.

    When I was at VeloCity talking to the Eco-Counter staff – I suggested it would make even more of an impact if there were similar counts for the car lanes too…or at east a large screen at the end of the bridge showing all the traffic per lane/ mode.

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  • Timo ActiveTransportationista August 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Join us for a short ride and be among the first to be counted !

    We meet on Wednesday morning, 10 am, at the plaza by the Fire Station under the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge (just south of Vera Katz statue).

    Come ride with us and be part of history!!/events/184812494985893/

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  • STEVE REINEMER October 14, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Meanwhile, why has this counter seemingly been left broken for nearly two years now?? Only shows 3 digits.

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