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Addition of the Day: Portland Installs Nation's First Bike Counter

Have you seen the episode of Portlandia where local cyclists raise $20,000 to fund a machine that keeps track of bicycle traffic?

Oh wait, that’s not something from IFC’s send-up of hipster Portland. It’s real life!

America’s first bike barometer debuted last night at midnight in Portland, Oregon, on the incoming side of Hawthorne Bridge. By the morning press conference, the number of cyclists was over 2,000. Previous data suggests that over 8,000 riders will have passed by the end of the day.

Funded by a gift from local non-profit Cycle Oregon, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year, the machine uses two inflated tubes to record the passage of each cyclists. The degree and timing of the pressure allows the device to distinguish bicycles from pedestrians. Each rider is counted on a digital display, which provides data for the city but also a source of pride for bike commuters.

“It’s really meant to celebrate bikes,” said Roger Geller, the Portland Bicycle Coordinator, in the StreetFilms video below.

Bicycle counters are already a prominent feature of European cities like Copenhagen, whose Nørrebrogade counter records several tens of thousands of bikers each day. It’s surprising that it took this long for the U.S. to install a bicycle barometer—high-profile bicycle debates could use the statistics. Well, when it rains it pours: Seattle looks to be hot on Portland's heels.

Video courtesy of StreetFilms.

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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