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In three months, over a half-million bike trips on the Hawthorne Bridge

Posted by on November 9th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

BikeBOT Radio Ride-35

Over 516,00 of them since August 8th, 2012.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Since it went live on August 8th, the bicycle counter on the Hawthorne Bridge has tallied over a half-million bike trips. Or, to be more precise, 516,778 as of 2:00 am this morning.

While not quite as visible (the LED is tough to read in the rising sun), or perfectly located (the eastbound direction would have more impact because the number is much higher in the evening) as PBOT would have preferred, the counter has been a great success thus far. It has counted reliably and it has provided the City with excellent data that they use in myriad ways.

Summer bike traffic-3-3

After averaging about 7,000 bike trips per weekday (and about 4,000 per day on weekends) during the month of August, the number of trips went up significantly in September. In addition to classes starting at Portland State University, I like to think of this September increase as the Bike Commute Challenge Bump — a rise in trips thanks to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s annual “competition” that encourages folks to bike to work that might not otherwise. The onset of fall and now the chill of wintry weather has seen trip levels drop considerably the past two months; but we’re still seeing about 5,000 – 5,500 trips per weekday. (Note: Both directions of traffic are counted.)

Here are the weekly totals in chart form:

Overall, the counter has averaged 6,341 trips per day since it was turned on (the highest day ever was September 25th with 8,305 trips).

But beyond cold, hard statistics, the counter has given Portlanders a greater sense of bike. It reminds people riding by that they are far from alone, and it reminds those of us driving by that there are thousands of people downtown every day that didn’t need a car to get there.

On their “Commuter Central” blog, PBOT put it this way:

“Increasing the number of people who bicycle is a long-range city goal to reduce congestion and air pollution, improve personal health and save Portlanders money by making a low-cost transportation option attractive and safe. A visual bike counter raises public awareness of these goals and highlights the city’s progress in reaching them.”

Poke through the counter stats yourself on this handy website.


(In other counting news, The Atlantic Cities has unearthed a great little gizmo that for just $139 lets anyone count traffic.)

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  • doug b November 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I would guess that the rise in September is because classes started at PSU.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      oh yeah! forgot about that. will make a note about it in the story. thanks doug.

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      • John Lascurettes November 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm

        Does Bridge Pedal get counted in there? I’d expect a much bigger spike from that.

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        • dwainedibbly November 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm

          For Bridge Pedal most of the riders were on the roadway. The counter doesn’t catch that part of the bridge. At least that’s my impression, backed by the fact that the number didn’t go up that much that day.

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      • kww November 13, 2012 at 11:57 am

        How does this compare with auto trips Jonathan?

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  • 9watts November 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I think the counter is incredibly cool. Soon after it was installed I biked across heading West at 6:45am and was floored to see the counter already up near 1,000 for the day. The feeling of having that many others out doing what I’m doing, but even earlier in the morning (I guess I’m not sure who commutes in the middle of the night across the Hawthorne Bridge), is hard to describe, but pride in our priorities is close.

    Figuring out how to render behaviors, patterns, non-dominant priorities visible that may be unknown or seem trivial to the majority is one of the things I work on, and this is a perfect example, I think, of why this is important and fun.

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    • Ashenmann November 10, 2012 at 10:14 am

      I cross most mornings at 3:30. During the summer, I was lucky to be in the top 200. With the weather change in mid-October, I was in the top 25, sometimes, top 10. Over the last two weeks it has crept back up to 100. Maybe everyone has acclimated to the weather?

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  • Andrew K November 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I love riding by this every morning.

    While I get the logic of wanting the counter installed on the other side of the bridge I still think it works well where it is located now. It’s kind of a symbolic “welcome to downtown” type thing in the same way the roads coming into a small towns show population counts under the welcome sign. Not entirely the same thing I know, but that’s how my brain works.

    But hey, that’s just me.

    Either way, I still want to see more of these around town.

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    • Hugh Johnson November 10, 2012 at 9:17 am

      I’d be happy to just have any kind of safe bike infrastructure where I live. This bike counter is cool, but it’s fluff.

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      • Andrew K November 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm

        …and it was donated to the city by a non-profit. Should they have refused it? Hard data can be very useful in getting the infrastructure we all want.

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  • Andrew K November 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    As an added note, I have also been very pleased to see how many people are still biking as the weather has become colder. Granted, it has gone down from the summer highs, but it didn’t fall nearly as much as I would have thought.

    One of those things that was nice to be wrong about.

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  • Spiffy November 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    the web site still shows 516,778 total trips as of 3:41pm…

    how often does the web site get updated? is it only when it resets at night? that’s what I’m guessing since it only shows Thursday’s numbers…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      AFAIK, the site updates every day at 2:00 am.

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      • 9watts November 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm

        how long until
        (a) someone sets up a webcam trained on the display, or
        (b) the updating interval is set to be more frequent?

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  • Rick Hamell November 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    For reference, how does this compare to the hand tallies that were done a (2? 3? 4?) years ago?

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    • art fuldodger November 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      There has been a 24/7 hose counter out on both sides of the Hawthorne bridge for several years. This just displays the data for all to see.

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  • dwainedibbly November 9, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I love the counter and visit the web page daily just to see how we’re doing. Imagine if all of those trips were by automobile. And double the number, since it only counts one direction.

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    • Psyfalcon November 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      I think it counts both directions. They only have one display though.

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  • Andrew Holtz November 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I wonder if PBOT or someone else could run a computer simulation of what vehicle traffic on the bridge would be like if most of the people riding bikes drove cars instead. The numbers are one thing, but an animation of the increased traffic delays might be a good tool to teach people about how boosting bicycle use benefits everyone.

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    • 9watts November 10, 2012 at 10:21 am

      “…if most of the people riding bikes drove cars instead.”

      I’m sympathetic to your motivation, but I think it is important to properly qualify the counterfactual. Many of us who bike don’t own cars.
      The just-imagine-how-much-worse-it-would-be-if-we-all-drove trope is risky insofar as it reifies cars as the standard way of getting around, focuses attention on the convenience/inconvenience of those still sitting in cars. One of these days we’re going to discover that we’ve moved on.

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    • A.K. November 12, 2012 at 8:51 am

      Another thing to think about is many people cross the Hawthrone by bike because it’s the best/closest bridge to their bike route. That’s why I take it, it happens to be the furthest south of the “bike friendly” bridges into downtown, and it’s really easy to get to from my house.

      When I drive I almost never take the Hawthorne. I live near the Ross Island so I take that instead.

      So I imagine there is certainly a strong correlation to people in bikes reducing cars on the bridge that I wouldn’t argue, some of those trips will also be taken via other bridges that work better for cars.

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  • Dan Liu November 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Jonathan, do you know if anyone has tried to correlate *daily* ridership with weather data? e.g., how many people continue to bike in the rain, in the cold, in the heat, etc.?

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  • J_R November 12, 2012 at 6:31 am

    According to the “2011 Bicycle Counts Report” published by Portland’s BOT in February 2012, the “average of weekday bicycle trips” on the Hawthorne Bridge was 8,044. (page 4). I can’t help but notice the weekday average is actually about 7,000 and we have only begun to see the seasonal decrease due to darkness, cold, and wet conditions.

    I’ve always suspected the numbers reported by PBOT were exaggerated. It’s nice to see some real data.

    Good work and keep riding, everyone.

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  • Rita November 12, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I really enjoy being approximately Rider#700 all summer, but I’m down in the 500’s now.

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  • Jeremy Cohen November 12, 2012 at 8:58 am

    My daughter and I LOVE seeing what number we are each day. Usually we are in the low 4oo’s, but every once in a while we find ourselves in the high 5’s. I am always curious why some days the number is so much higher/lower than others–great fun. I do wish there was ANOTHER display on the other side as I have to crane my neck to catch the stats on the way home.

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  • Ian Stude November 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for the shout out to PSU! Fall term classes began the week of Sept 24th, coinciding with a large spike that week. I’d like to think we had something to do with that… We certainly saw an awful lot of bicycles on campus during that first couple of weeks.

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