Portland’s first 24-hour volunteer bike count on May 14-15

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Every Bike Counts
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Every Bike Counts!

(May 8, 2015) As part of May’s Bike Month festivities, PBOT’s Active Transportation Division will host Portland’s first-ever 24-hour volunteer bike count, Every Bike Counts, May 14-15 at SE Ankeny & 28th Ave. Starting at noon on Thursday and wrapping up at noon on Friday, a cadre of bike count volunteers will take turns tallying all the bikes that travel through the intersection. A nearby Celebration Station will provide bike riders with a pit stop of refreshments and chances to win prizes from local businesses.

Every Bike Counts will use the methodology of PBOT’s annual summer bike counts by tracking turning movements, helmet use, and gender of each rider. The event also aims to recruit new volunteers for the annual bike counts, which constitute the bulk of Portland’s bike ridership data. Dozens of volunteers count at more than 200 intersections across the city every summer to log bike traffic, forming an impressive database that is one of the biggest in the country.

But as extensive as Portland’s annual bike count is, it is still limited to just one two-hour count per intersection taken during peak car commute hours (typically 4-6pm, though some are completed 7-9am). This two-hour count is then used to estimate how many bikes travel through the intersection on a daily basis. We know that lots of people are riding bikes beyond typical commute hours, and that they are using bikes for trips other than the commute to work. Every Bike Counts provides an opportunity to say thanks to all those riders, no matter what time of day or where their destination.

Monitoring one intersection for 24 hour will also provide some interesting qualitative data by asking riders where they are going. How many people are using their bike to get to the grocery store? To school? To a restaurant? There will also be hourly reports on ridership – is anyone actually riding their bike at 4am?

Of course, more sophisticated methods for gathering 24-hour ridership data exist – such as the automated hose counts on Portland’s five bike-friendly bridges (Broadway, Burnside, Hawthorne, Morrison and Steel). However, it is cost-prohibitive to have these at more than just a few locations. Obtaining quality data across the city is a necessary goal to move toward.

Better data informs better decisions for keeping Portland streets safe and traffic moving in all neighborhoods. Imagine a small, unobtrusive sensor that can track bike movements to show real-time trip data. PBOT is partnering with local startup Knock to pilot an innovative low cost bike counter. PBOT and Knock staff to conduct the first road test of the counter prototype at Every Bike Counts.

The future is almost here! But in the meantime, Portland will continue to use clipboards and pens to record history’s bike riders. Every Bike Counts provides an opportunity to celebrate today’s riders and plan for those of tomorrow.

Sign up to volunteer and help record the ride!