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Portland’s “Bicycle Barometer”

From Bike Portland:
Portland makes bikes count on the Hawthorne Bridge:

A new bike counter (a.k.a. the bicycle barometer) — the first of its kind in the United States — went live at midnight last night and at this morning’s press conference the number was already well over 2,000.
The counter has been placed on the northern side of the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge, right where the path splits off onto Waterfront Park and into downtown. Standing at about eight feet high, it features an illuminated tally of “Cyclists today” and a vertical chart of “Cyclists this year” (that goes up to 2,000,000).

The counter works via four sets of air hoses strung across the Hawthorne Bridge path (see images below). There are two sets of two hoses placed about 10-15 feet apart on both sides of the bridge. According to PBOT data collection expert Tom Jensen, when someone on a bicycle rolls over the hoses, their weight depresses the hose, which creates a pulse that is converted into a radio signal that beams wirelessly to the counter.

PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller said they’re using air hoses instead of induction loops (commonly used to trigger traffic signals) because the hoses are more accurate.

I love the juxtaposition of old and new technology. Pneumatic tubes have been around for years, but they remain one of the most cost effective ways of collecting bike data. Combine them with the new twist of providing real-time readout, and it’s a fun way to demonstrate support for cycling. I’m trying to imagine the best place for something like this in Minneapolis. Probably along the Midtown Greenway somewhere, although it would be cool if the number of cyclists counted could also be displayed someplace where non-cyclists could see it as well.

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