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Bicycle Counts

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Person sitting on the corner of intersection counting cyclists.
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2024 Summer Bicycle Counts

Looking for an opportunity to get out in the nice weather? Want to get some granular knowledge of who is biking in Portland? Want to contribute to the city’s efforts to advance bicycle transportation?

Volunteer for a bike count! We’re counting over 300 locations this summer (June 4 - September 26) and our volunteers make this work possible. Sign-up for a bike count using the online form—sites are available on a first come first serve basis.

Claim your location

In the 2023 count, we found that the number of people biking had increased by about 5% since the previous summer. The count also yielded a broader look at the universe of “small things with wheels” and the first estimate of e-bike use in Portland, with 17% of people biking observed riding an e-bike. 

The 2024 counts will provide greater insights into the evolution of biking in the city and show how Portlanders are adopting and adapting to a wider range of transportation options. The first day to count this year is Tuesday, June 4 and the last day is Thursday, September 26. 

New in 2024 is an in-person training for volunteers, first-timers and veterans alike!

  • Who: anyone who is (or may be) interested in counting bicycles this summer, and people who want to meet other volunteers.
  • What: a 30-minute training and Q&A, with the opportunity to bike (or take transit) to bike happy hour afterward!
  • When: Wednesday, May 29 from 3:30-4:00pm
  • Where: Portland Building (1120 SW 5th Ave), Room 100. Followed by BikePortland Bike Happy Hour at Gorges Beer Co. (2705 SE Ankeny St).

RSVP for the training when you sign up to count a site or through this RSVP link. RSVPing is not required to attend but is appreciated.

Resources

(Veteran counters: refer to pages 4-6 for a step-by-step of how to record e-bikes)

Volunteer Site List (It may take one to two business days from signing up to see your count location(s) reflected in this list.)

The Basics of Counting

  • Each site is counted once during the summer for two consecutive hours.
  • Each site has a count time, either 7-9am or 4-6pm.
  • Counts must be conducted on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
  • Counts must start and end promptly at the assigned time.
  • Some sites have higher volumes of people biking where were recommend or require a partner—those sites are noted on the sign-up form.

When you have completed your count(s)

When you’ve completed your counts, use this online form to submit your results. Please submit your count data as soon as possible.

Submit your count data

You’ll submit the form once for each site. Follow the directions for filling out the count form. In general, count the subtotals for e-bikes and standard bikes and the totals for all bikes ahead of time and take pictures of or scan your completed count sheets. You will be asked to send in the images of your count sheets as part of the submission. If you have any issues, reach out to us via email or phone.

Identifying E-bikes

2023 was the first year we asked volunteers to identify e-bikes as part of the count. That is sometimes easier said than done. If volunteers are unsure whether someone is riding an e-bike, we ask that they record a person riding a standard, analog bike. However, there are a few things volunteers can look for to help them identify e-bikes: 

  • Battery packs – A sizable battery is often the most visible identifier of e-bikes, typically located on the down tube, seat tube, or on a rack over the rear wheel (see images below). Many newer e-bikes have batteries that are more integrated with the frame usually, though not always, resulting in a thicker down or seat tube (see training slides for examples). The slight hum of the electric battery can also be another sign of an e-bike.
  • Faster acceleration – Both pedal-assist (classes 1, 2, and 3) and throttle-assist e-bikes (class 2) can accelerate from a stop more readily than analog bikes. People using class 2 e-bikes may also be seen moving without pedaling for an appreciable distance, using the throttle to propel their bike.
  • Higher speeds – E-bikes have a top speed of about 20 mph (classes 1 & 2) or 28 mph (class 3) before the electric assist stops assisting. Your average person riding an analog bike in the city is typically traveling at 10-15 mph.
  • BIKETOWN – All of the city’s shared BIKETOWN bikes are electric-assist (class 1). These can also be a good way to get more familiar with e-bikes for volunteers who may not have used one before.
  • E-bike only brands – Several manufacturers only produce e-bikes, including Rad Power Bikes, Aventon, Velotric, Urban Arrow (cargo bikes), VanMoof, Lectric, Benno, Blix, Haibike, and Evelo. If you spot those brands, you know it's an e-bike.

Rear-mounted battery:

Close up of a person riding an e-bike with a battery mounted to the rack above the back wheel

Down tube-mounted battery:

A close up of an e-bike frame with a battery mounted to the bike's down tube. A person's wearing capri-length pants and hairy legs is riding the bike

Seat tube-mounted battery:

A close up of a white e-bike with a batter mounted vertically to the seat tube of the bike frame.

Past bicycle count reports

Additional information/resources

Hawthorne Bridge Bicycle Counter: Track daily, weekly and monthly bike counts from the Hawthorne Bridge Bike Barometer. 

Tilikum Crossing Bicycle Counter: Track daily, weekly and monthly bike counts from the Tilikum Crossing Bike Barometer.

2006 Bridge Count Graphs: Portland's counts of bicycle trips on the four bicycle-friendly Willamette River Bridges (Broadway, Steel, Burnside & Hawthorne) provide an indication of bicycle activity in response to the city's activities to encourage bicycling and make it safer. The story here is "build it and they will come," and "tell people about it and they will ride." 

2006 Bridge Counts by Bridge: This PDF provides a detailed look at the number of people biking on each of the four bridges in 2006. 

Bridge Counts and Completeness of Network Feeding the Bridges 

Some of the more interesting data. These charts for the Broadway Bridge, Burnside Bridge, and Hawthorne Bridge each show a strong correlation between completeness of the bikeway network feeding each bridge, and increasing ridership. The Burnside Bridge, which has the least complete network of the three, also displays the lowest and flattest ridership levels. 

Comprehensive Bicycle Count Data 

Following the 2008 bicycle counts, we compiled much of the data into a report. Get it here. This report shows riderhship up in all areas of the city, shows a closing of the gap between male and female riders (more on that later), and bicycles as a growing proportion of all vehicles on the four bicycle-friendly downtown bridges. 

Gender Information 

According to international transportation researcher John Pucher, who has researched conditions for bicycling and walking across the US and Europe, one indication of a truly bicycle friendly city and country is having equal proportions of men and women cycling. Why? It may be that women are more safety-conscious than men and thus will ride in lower numbers until they feel comfortable on a city's streets. This has shown up in surveys we've conducted: women are more concerned about safety than men. 

In Portland, fewer women ride than men; the ratio is approximately 2:1. However, there are encouraging signs. While women represented 21% of all counted cyclists in 1992, by 2006 they represented 32% of all counted cyclists. We also see differences in gender in different parts of Portland. In SE Portland, where bicycle boulevards are a more prominent feature of the bikeway network, the genders are almost balanced. In Outer East and Southwest Portland, where conditions are generally not as favorable for riding, women represent a much lower proportion of overall riders. 

Bicycles as Proportion of All Vehicles on Bicycle-Friendly Bridges 

Bicycle ridership on the four main bicycle-friendly Willamette River Bridges has more than sextupled since 1991. At the same time, automotive trips on these bridges has held relatively constant. Bicycles now represent 13% of all vehicle trips on those bridges, up from approximately 2% in 1991.  

Bicycle Safety 

Bicycle Safety varies from country to country. Recent research on bicycle crash and fatality rates in The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States is shown in this chart.  In Portland the crash rate for bicycles has been dropping over time. 


Count bikes, get famous!

You could end up on Google Maps like this guy:

Person sitting at 97th and Burnside counting bikes

Thanks for counting, buny!


Four Types of Transportation Cyclists

Read the full report with details on the support for the categories below. 

Graph of the 4 types of transportation cyclists in Portland

Despite all the considerable advances Portland and the region have made in facilitating bicycling, concerns about the safety of bicycling still loom large. Riding a bicycle should not require bravery. Yet, all too often, that is the perception among cyclists and non-cyclists alike. No person should have to be “brave” to ride a bicycle; unfortunately, this is a sentiment commonly expressed to those who regularly ride bicycles by those who do not. There are many cities in modern, industrialized nations around the world with a high bicycle mode split. They have achieved these high levels of bicycle use through adherence to various cycling-promoting policies and practices. But, one thing they share in common is they have substantially removed the element of fear associated with bicycling in an urban environment. They have created transportation systems in which bicycling is often the most logical, enjoyable and attainable choice for trips of a certain length for a wide swath—if not the majority—of their populace. For residents of these cities, concern about personal safety associated with bicycling is rarely a consideration, and certainly not to the levels we experience here. In these “fearless” cities septuagenarians are able to ride alongside seven-year-olds safely, comfortably, and with confidence throughout the breadth of the cities[1]. Making bicycling a more widespread and mainstream means of transportation in Portland will require substantially addressing concerns about personal safety. 

Describing the four general categories of transportation cyclists in Portland and their differing needs best precedes a discussion of bikeway treatments. For lack of better terminology, Portlanders can be placed into one of the four following groups based on their relationship to bicycle transportation[2]:

  • “Strong and the Fearless,”
  • “Enthused and the Confident,”
  • “Interested but Concerned.”
  • “No Way No How”—i.e. non riders. 

Survey after survey and poll after poll has found again and again that the number one reason people do not ride bicycles is because they are afraid to be in the roadway on a bicycle. They are generally not afraid of other cyclists, or pedestrians, or of injuring themselves in a bicycle-only crash. When they say they are “afraid” it is a fear of people driving automobiles. This has been documented and reported in transportation literature from studies, surveys, and conversations across the US, Canada, and Europe. 

This expression of fear is also something that has been heard hundreds, if not thousands of times by city staff in conversations with Portland residents. Any staff person involved with bicycle projects from Portland’s Office of Transportation, Portland Parks and Recreation, Metro, and ODOT has repeatedly heard expression of this fear. Staff and employees of local bicycle organizations, clubs and bicycle-oriented businesses have also regularly heard Portland citizens express that their interest in riding a bicycle is countered by fear for their safety.

This fear can be understood experientially. There is a qualitative difference between riding a bicycle on a bikeway like SE Lincoln-Harrison—with little traffic, slow speeds, and frequent cyclists—as compared to one like N Willamette with narrow bicycle lanes, narrow travel lanes and high volumes of fast-moving traffic. There is also an easily understood qualitative difference between these bikeways and roadways like N Lombard, or SE Division, or West Burnside, as is there a difference between them and the motor-vehicle-free Springwater Corridor. 

There is a continuum of cyclists, and of attitudes about cycling among the citizens of Portland. Some will tolerate West Burnside, others are comfortable on Willamette, more prefer Lincoln-Harrison, and many truly feel at ease only on a trail like the Springwater. Others will not ride anywhere in the City of Portland, or elsewhere. This continuum is defined, in part, by individual comfort level on different types of bikeways. 

The “Strong and the Fearless” comprise perhaps 2,000 or fewer cyclists in Portland, representing fewer than 0.5% of the population. These are the people who will ride in Portland regardless of roadway conditions. They are ‘bicyclists;’ riding is a strong part of their identity and they are generally undeterred by roadway conditions—though likely few are courageous enough to venture too far up West Burnside into the West Hills. 

The “Enthused and Confident” are those who have been attracted to cycling in Portland by the significant advances the city has made developing its bikeway network and supporting infrastructure over the past 16 years. They are comfortable sharing the roadway with automotive traffic, but they prefer to do so operating on their own facilities. They are attracted to riding in Portland because there are streets that have been redesigned to make them work well for bicycling. They appreciate bicycle lanes and bicycle boulevards. 

This enthused and confident demographic of cyclists are the primary reason why bicycle commuting doubled between 1990 and 2000 (U.S. Census) and why measured bicycle trips on Portland’s four main bicycle-friendly bridges across the Willamette River saw more than a 300% increase in daily bicycle trips between the early 1990’s and 2006. There are perhaps now more than 22,000 of this group riding their bicycles regularly in the city. An educated guess would be that this 22,000 represents 60% of the ‘enthused and confident’ demographic of Portland citizens. These are the citizens who are and could be attracted to regular riding by continuing to address the barriers on which Portland has focused for the past 15 years: shorter trip distances, better bicycle facilities, better end-of-trip facilities. This demographic comprises perhaps 40,000 Portland citizens, or 7% of the population. 

A much larger demographic, representing the vast majority of Portland’s citizens, are the “interested but concerned.” These residents are curious about bicycling. They are hearing messages from a wide variety of sources about how easy it is to ride a bicycle in Portland, about how bicycling is booming in the city, about “bicycle culture” in Portland, about Portland being a “bicycle-friendly” city, and about the need for people to lead more active lives. They like riding a bicycle, remembering back to their youths, or to the ride they took last summer on the Springwater, or in the BridgePedal, or at Sun River, and they would like to ride more. But, they are afraid to ride. They don’t like the cars speeding down their streets. They get nervous thinking about what would happen to them on a bicycle when a driver runs a red light, or guns their cars around them, or passes too closely and too fast. Very few of these people regularly ride bicycles—perhaps 2,000 who will ride through their neighborhoods to the local park or coffee shop, but who will not venture out onto the arterials to the major commercial and employment destinations they frequent. There are probably 300,000 in this group, representing 60% of the city’s population. They would ride if they felt safer on the roadways—if cars were slower and less frequent, and if there were more quiet streets with few cars and paths without any cars at all. 

Perhaps one-third of the city’s population falls into the last category of ‘cyclist.’ This is the “no way, no how” group that is currently not interested in bicycling at all, for reasons of topography, inability, or simply a complete and utter lack of interest. 

The separation between these four broad groups is not generally as clear-cut as described here. There is likely quite a bit of blurring between the “enthused,” the “interested,” and those not at all interested, but this has proven to be a reasonable way to understand the city’s existing and potential cyclists. 

[1] In The Netherlands and Germany, 50% of all trips made by people 75 and older is either by walking or bicycling. In The Netherlands, 25% of all trips made by such septuagenarians are by bicycle. 

[2] This typology is for using the bicycle for transportation, only. People in all these groups—especially the “interested but concerned” group—may bicycle for recreation. This categorization addresses only their willingness to use a bicycle as a main means of transportation.