Esplanade closure begins February 1st

New bike counter tallies 7,432 Hawthorne Bridge bike trips on first day of operation

Posted by on August 9th, 2012 at 11:36 am

6,038 as of 7:49 pm last night.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePorltand)

Portland’s new bike counter had its first full day of operation yesterday and it logged 7,432 bike trips across the Hawthorne Bridge. That number is relatively close to 8,044, which is the average daily number of trips PBOT tallied in their official 2011 counts.

As the counter rolls out, I’m still learning more about it and clarifying some confusion surrounding it.

First, I want to share that contrary to what I understood from PBOT staff, the daily and annual bike trip data is available online. The company we purchased the counter from, Montreal-based Eco-Counter, has a website up for the Hawthorne Bridge counter which displays the data in a few different formats. (UPDATE: According to PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller, the website is updated once a day at 2:00 am.)

Screen grab of Eco Counter website.

Last night, unable to sleep without knowing the first day’s final tally (and didn’t realize it’d be available online), I rolled down to see it at around 11:45 pm. Unfortunately, the counter had already been reset. I’ve shared that glitch with PBOT and they’re looking into it.

I have also heard that some eastbound bicycle trips are not showing up on the display. I have confirmed that PBOT is aware of this issue and that the manufacturer is shipping out a new antenna to solve the problem (it will be installed next week).

What’s important to remember is that, even with the slight timing/reset glitch and this antennae issue, the actual counting of bicycle trips has remained rock solid. In other words, these issues are with the display only, not the underlying data collection.

Speaking of the data collection, I’ve learned a bit more about that as well. Turns out there are two counting mechanisms. Yesterday I explained how the air hoses create a pulse when depressed by a bike tire and then send that pulse via radio frequency to the counter. Today I learned the data from each bike trip is also sent via modem to a server in France, where it’s then beamed onto that website I linked to above.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Eco-Counter website only offers basic information to the public; but according sources at PBOT, they get to see a much more detailed view. They can analyze and download the data based on direction of bike travel, traffic volume by hourly increments, and more.

One last thing (for now) that I want to clear up is all the confusion about whether or not this is the first such bike counter in North America. A Twitter friend of mine from Ottawa pointed out yesterday that they have a bike counter with a public display; but it turns out that display wasn’t permanent and it has since been taken down. This means that Portland’s bike counter (according to both PBOT sources and officials at Eco-Counter) is the first permanently installed bike counter with a public display in North America. All right then. I hope that’s finally settled.

I’m sure many of you rode past the counter on the way into work this morning. What do you think?

— For more on Portland’s new bike counter, watch this new video from Streetfilms and browse our recent coverage.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Paul Cone August 9, 2012 at 11:44 am

    The website currently shows almost no bikes counted so far today. ???

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    • Woodstock_Cyclist August 9, 2012 at 11:53 am

      The webpage is cool indeed, but must not be updated in real time, because there were over 1900 when I pedaled by this morning.

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    • peejay August 9, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Yeah, the number since Aug 8 is still 7505, same as the screengrab above, which means today’s total is 73?? As of 7:00 this morning, it was over 500. Something’s not right.

      Regardless, when all the glitches are worked out, I am confident that this is a very positive addition to our transit infrastructure, and we should be pushing for more! Somebody in PBOT could spend a day on the phone and get sponsors lined up for counters all over the city.

      One more nit about the design: I would have preferred a larger numeric display over the car lanes, so those stuck in traffic on the bridge would realize how many people are avoiding that traffic they’re stuck in. Not to rub it in or anything.

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    • HAL9000 August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      I was rider #2048 or somesuch this morning around 11am!

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  • Fred August 9, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I hope there is a function to determine the winners of Cat 6 sprints across the bridge.

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    • Rol August 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      …and a way to test for doping…

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  • Nate August 9, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I’m a NoPo resident so I missed it, but love it anyway. I would love to see on the Broadway Bridge so we could have a bike-off! Heck, let’s get one for each bridge!

    Any idea on whether the online system will eventually display more info for public consumption? I’d be curious to look at hourly counts, especially around commuting times AND special events. I counted for trail counts last year and was stationed on the Hawthorne Bridge during the Komen RFTC. How much do such events affect counts? How many people really did park on the east side and walk or bike over? This helps answer that and plan for parking and other infrastructure! Great stuff all around.

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    • John Lascurettes August 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      I’d love for them to allow for download of some of the other data. We have enough nerds in this town that could do some really interesting visuals with that data. 🙂

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  • jlhw August 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    i was rider #1839 this morning!

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  • Roger Geller August 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    The website shows daily data. It is updated at 2 am each morning.

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    • peejay August 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      How much coding would it take to update this more frequently? Anyone want to donate ten minutes of their time to fix this?

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    • jram August 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      so we had 73 bikes between midnight and 2am? nice!

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      • Indy August 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm

        I was one on the Broadway! I felt so naughty too, like some exclusive 2 a.m. club. Looks like I was way off if that many people were on the Hawthorne…

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  • Spiffy August 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    that graph is going to look pretty cool in a few weeks… awesome!

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  • Spiffy August 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    it’s working! the counter makes me want to be counted!

    if the MAX wasn’t already so packed with bikes going over the hill then I’d swap out my home-to-downtown bus ride for a bike ride…

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  • Mike August 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I bike in from the springwater trail everymorning then cross over at OMSI to the Eastside Espanade and up the ramp near the drinking fountain and firestation. Are my rides counted? as I cross the bridge section over the Willamettte River water but not the bridge section over Street called Water Ave.

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    • BicycleDave August 10, 2012 at 12:09 am

      I take the same route. Looks like there are new rubber hoses on the bridge just over the water. So I believe the answer is yes we are counted.

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  • SilkySlim August 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I was 690 or so this morning (~7:25am).

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  • CaptainKarma August 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    When I do a reload on the webpage, it says “Since Dec 31 1899” That would be awesome.

    I’m heading down to put my two cents (er, wheel thumps) in…

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  • John Lascurettes August 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Jonathan: “manufacturer is shipping out a new antennae”

    You mean either “a new antenna” or “some new antennae”.

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  • Sunny August 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    It’s gonna be fun trying to time your ride to be a certain number every day.

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  • J-R August 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I find it interesting that on a great summer day the count was about ten percent under what PBOT reports is the annual average. I’ve always been suspicious of PBOT’s counts and predicted when the new counter was announced that this would be the result. I love good data! Great to see some and if the new antenna improves it even better.

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    • SilkySlim August 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      The dealie wasn’t unveiled all day (although maybe it was already tracking, I don’t know). So that could have been the 9am+ crowd.

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      • BicycleDave August 10, 2012 at 12:11 am

        I went by just as they were pulling the wrapper off and was 1445 at about 9:15am yesterday. My guess was that it wasn’t everyone since midnight.

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  • Mindful Cyclist August 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    “Last night, unable to sleep without knowing the first day’s final tally (and didn’t realize it’d be available online), I rolled down to see it at around 11:45 pm. Unfortunately, the counter had already been reset.”

    That is dedication, Jonathan!!

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  • Jim Lee August 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Extremely cool, even for us Cat 7s.

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  • Joe August 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    CAT10 sprint points ;-P for some

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  • Roger August 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Awesome! On Day one yesterday, Aug. 8th, I was #6371 at 7:49 pm (headed home after the Multnomah County Bike & Pedestrian CAC meeting).

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  • David August 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    So awesome! Makes me wonder if enough interested people in Portland would be up for donating $5 or so to a kickstarter-esque fund to get counters on other heavily trafficked streets or bridges!

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  • Ted Buehler August 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Bike Counters are fabulous. They let folks know the city thinks they are important. They let folks know their numbers are growing every year. They provide a basis for asking for better roadway improvements because everyone who rides that bridge will know just how many people use it, and toss that number around fluently.

    Bike Counters are one of those “little things” that can move bicycling ahead just one more notch.

    Nice work PBOT and Cycle Oregon for taking the initiative and getting this installed.

    & nice work on getting the news crews out at the dedication, so folks on TV can see what they’re missing when they only travel by car in the downtown areas.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Sunny August 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I would trade 1 Sunday Parkways for five of these!

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  • Opus the Poet August 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m in TX or that I’m using FF14 under Ubuntu 10.04, but all I get when I pull the web site up is a black background with white boxes.

    So is it out of town or incompatible web browser?

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    • spare_wheel August 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      i am running ubuntu 10.04.4 and firefox 14.0.1+build1. it requires flash. install flash from repos or 64bit ppa.

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      • Opus the Poet August 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm

        Ah, my computer lacks hardware to support flash so that explains it.

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  • Tab August 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I couldn’t quite see when it counted me. I expected it to tick up one when I passed—did it count me before, or count me after, or was I just not paying attention correctly? I turn right toward the waterfront, so I was also looking out for people walking and all. I also want to know if it can recognize the big four-wheel rental surreys as bikes.

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    • BicycleDave August 10, 2012 at 12:18 am

      I believe the sensors are on the East end of the bridge. Look for two sets of 2 black rubber tubes across the path. They’re too far away from the display to see it increment. I’m guessing the first set of tubes is PBOT’s counter and the second set (further West) look newly installed because of the concrete dust around the new nails holding them and belong to the display.

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      • BicycleDave August 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm

        Oops, bad memory. The West bound sensors are close enough to see the display increment as you cross.

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  • Indy August 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    It would be very interesting to read about contention plans for vandalism/cutting those tubes. If people are putting nails on our pathways, surely this will be a target. Sad, but I’d like to make sure this thing remains as up-and-available as much as possible and stay accurate.

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  • Adam August 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I like this a lot!

    One little concern I have… the rubber hoses they lay down to do bike counts are always coming loose and then not working. When I was walking across the Hawthorne Bridge only two weeks ago during The Big Float parade, a bike count hose was completely loose, and just snaking across the sidewalk everywhere.

    I am curious who exactly will be maintaining those hoses ie. how often they will be checked as operational. If they stop working, it will skewer the data totals.

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    • Greg August 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      I was wondering the same thing as I rode eastbound across the Hawthorne today. I did notice two pairs of the double hoses, so maybe they have those for redundancy?

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  • Stochelo August 10, 2012 at 8:33 am

    So, time to say it–drivers, if you like your parking space, thank a cyclist!

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  • Joe August 10, 2012 at 10:11 am

    I’m sooo stoked over this! neat is the word that comes to mind

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  • jimbobpdx August 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Umm, good thing we’re not a self-absorbed lot, eh?

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  • Anthony August 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    The counter is pretty cool, but why are we counting bikes?

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    • Andy August 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Because this type of data connection can show important trends that help city planners, budgets, transportation goals be met. There isn’t a transportation department in the country that doesn’t collect this same data for cars.

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  • Anthony August 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Why are we counting the bikes?

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  • Diablo August 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Know of any plans to extend the hoses out to capture all the riders on the BridgePedal?

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  • Mindful Cyclist August 13, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Realize this story and comments have kind of run its course, but I just looked at the website. How was it on the day of the Bridgepedal with an estimated 19,000 people was it so low? Perhaps because of the plywood on the grating, but a lot of people were also on the path as well.

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  • Babygorilla August 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I’ve noticed the daily trips (save for Bridge Pedal) deviate from the City of Portland’s previous bridge count claim of over 8,000 daily riders. Any follow up as to why there is such a difference and whether that will impact policy going forward.

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  • dweendaddy August 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I will be looking forward to a follow up post about how the data look 2 weeks in, then 2 months, then six months, etc… So far there have been 100,000 trips counted over 16 days (including weekends), which is 6300 per day, far below the 8000 estimated by the PBOT counts. What does this mean? Are data from bike count days artificially inflated? Do more people bike on days when there are bike counts? Or is it just within the margin of error?

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    • Psyfalcon September 3, 2012 at 11:57 am

      PSU isn’t in session and sees a lot of bike traffic… I’m expecting a bump in September.

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  • Henry September 3, 2012 at 7:48 am

    What is the car count per day?

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  • Lisa September 18, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Can anyone please explain to me how the counter knows the difference between a pedestrian and a person? That portion of the bridge has both types of commuters…

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  • Lisa September 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    sorry- i meant pedestrian and biker…. it can’t be a weight difference thing.

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    • SilkySlim September 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Well, think about how a pedestrian would register as they cross over the two “hoses” placed about 18″ apart. They might touch one, or both, with a single touch each. Now think about how a bike would hit it. Two hits on each, which each tube registering the same time gap between hits. That pretty clearly identifies a bike.

      I fear that this may mean they aren’t counting unicycles though. And perhaps they count those silly bike SUVs that are for rent twice each (they do have the occupancy though…).

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