Counting with Counterpoint

The City of Ottawa has a few automated bike counters and they provide valueable data. But the official bike count network will never be extensive enough to catch everything we might want to know. (Though Ottawa does have money for 225 live-video traffic cameras). Last night a few #ottbike folks met for drinks at the New Edinburgh pub and we counted bikers and walkers from the patio. It's like knitting, but for nerds. Okay, it's like knitting but for non-knitting nerds.

We used the CounterPointApp.org web application and iPhone folks have a native app as well. It is intuitive enough so I won't really bother explaining it. Short story is you join an existing counting location ("Beechwood between Vanier Parkway and Charlevoix") then tap on the screen for each pedestrian, cyclist, driver or truck/bus you see. They also have an advanced counting mode so you can differentiate between bike with kid carrier, bike with kid trailer, and on and on. I prefer the easy mode. I also prefer being able to sip a beer while counting.

The app lets you count for as long as you want, but data captured in a single 15-minute window is treated as higher quality. If you're counting with friends that will work fine as the exported data keeps everyone's counts separate. This will let you count really busy roads by splitting the task. I could have counted eastbound cars, someone else do westbound (SO MANY CARS), and a third person to get all the bikes and pedestrians. The exported CSV is broken down by the minute, so it would not be hard to stitch the overal totals back together afterwards.

Here is the raw CSV I downloaded from CounterPoint. It keeps the per-minute totals for each counter separate and also totals each modal type up automatically, and separates each tracking session. This is nice, as it means if a vandal tried to come in and create obviously garbage data (no bikes! a million cars!) it would be easy to ignore it after the fact.

The site also allows users to join a team. There is now an #ottbike team, natch.

I'm a little afraid I'll never again just drink coffee on a patio before work and read twitter.

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