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. 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.