The ability to know about your community’s health: the 2nd Street Pedestrian Sensor

Kaiser Permanente Urban Pyro Pedestrian Counts 54402
The beat of a street, not a person. Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health Urban Pyro Pedestrian Sensor, 2nd Street NE, Washington, DC USA (View on

This image isn’t the erratic heartbeat of a person (who wouldn’t be in good condition if it was), it’s the heartbeat of a city, in this case Washington, DC.

Here are more snapshots of the traffic we’ve been monitoring since January – they show that there’s a morning walking commute toward downtown (The Capitol and the Supreme Court) that’s at a more defined time, and then a more spread out commute home in the afternoons. The opposite side of the street has a new sidewalk open but we haven’t seen a dip in traffic yet because of it.

This is the data reading of pedestrian movement of our sensor that could, installed on 2nd Street Northeast, just 5 blocks north of the Supreme Court, on the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

The famous bright blue sensor

One of our visitors this week, William Hyerle, came to DC from Montreal for a conference and asked to see the counter that he said is well known throughout his company, Eco-Counter (@Eco_Counter). Eco-Counter is the manufacturer of the device and is based in France.

I asked why our sensor is well known and he told us because communities and organizations who install them usually select colors that help them blend in and be invisible. In our case, the sensor is a bright blue (Kaiser Permanente blue to be specific) and is quite visible.

I think we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We want people to know that we’re interested in our community’s health, of which physical activity is a key component, and that we desire the ability to know, so that we can make it better.

I checked my blog archives and I wrote a similar sentiment about population care in 2010 (!): The ability to know – Population care facilitated by health information technology at Kaiser Permanente Tualatin, Oregon.

This takes that one step farther. Beyond knowing about the health (care) status of the people we serve, we have an interest in their ability to achieve total health. In the future, every health system should invest in the ability to know about the health determinants of the communities they serve, and those investments should be visible to the people who live in them.

Of course we like to say we are living in the future now. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by, grab a photo!


What a great tool. Has this been used to evaluate pedestrian traffic before and after pedestrian improvements?

Ted Eytan, MD