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Visualising Bike Share (#geomob 21 October 2010)


From Boris Bikes in London to Bike Share across the World. Introducing, visualising and analysing bike share schemes in Europe, America and Asia, including London's Barclays Cycle Hire, Montreal's …

From Boris Bikes in London to Bike Share across the World. Introducing, visualising and analysing bike share schemes in Europe, America and Asia, including London's Barclays Cycle Hire, Montreal's Bixi, Barcelona's Bicing and Paris's Velib. Who's using them, when are they using them and what do the schemes look like?

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  • The picture is of the T-shirt that was given out to the first 1000 people that signed up for the scheme in London.
  • Fully automated, including sign-up and operation. However London, at least, employs workers at some of the stations at rush-hour to provide extra capacity (bikes in the morning, spaces in the evening). This is a short term measure. Waterloo will shortly get 350 docks which should alleviate this problem.
  • This is a familiar scene to commuters leaving the terminal stations in the morning, or leaving the City in the evening...
  • Above: Minneapolis “Nice Ride”. Below: Barcelona “Bicing”
  • The cities are at roughly the same scale (exactly the same zoom level, which = scale * cosine (latitude))
  • Screenshot of empty bike stations in west Barcelona at 9pm on Wednesday.
  • Note this is just one day’s worth of data – and doesn’t control for weather conditions or special events.
  • Note this is just one day’s worth of data – and doesn’t control for weather conditions or special events.
  • London, Dublin and Brussels have a slightly earlier evening peak than Milan and Paris. Vienna doesn’t use the scheme to commute.
  • Use at lunch is as much as (or more than) during the evening rush hour, and the evening peak occurs at around 7pm – the Spanish “siesta” working pattern”. Girona is very small, so usage rises gradually during the day, rather than having a morning rush hour.
  • Denver doesn’t have the rush hour peaks – showing that few commuters are using the scheme, possible due to the U.S car culture?
  • Usage in general much lower than during the week, and mainly late afternoon use, particularly in Paris and Milan.
  • Spain still has a siesta at the weekends! (The effect is noticeable in four of the five Spanish cities included.) The bikes also get used all through the evenings.
  • Higher usage at the weekend than during weekdays, in the US.
  • Comparing world city dynamics based on bike shares!


    Visualising Bike Share
    From Boris Bikes in
    London to Bike Share
    across the World
    Oliver O’Brien
    Photo CC-NC-By-SA Adam Bowie on Flickr
  • 2. Contents
    Intro to bike share
    Around the world
    Analysing trends
    Other community efforts
    Photo CC-By Charlotte Gilhooly on Flickr
  • 3. What is a Bike Share?
    A scheme allowing bikes to be hired from (and returned to) certain locations
    City or campus based
    Typical use is for short durations
    Generally fully automated (in theory)
    Require an account linked to a credit card
    Photo CC-NC-By-ND Terry Freedman on Flickr
  • 4. Terminology
    Docks– The things which hold onto the bikes and release them
    • Stations– groups of docks
    • 5. Spaces– docks which are empty
    Photo CC-By Les Hutchins on Flickr
  • 6. The Bikes
    Normally “odd” looking, “lively” colours
    Eye catching amongst street furniture
    For sponsor branding
    To discourage theft
    Custom designed with non-standard parts, to prevent part theft.
    Photos CC-By tsuacctnt and CC-NC-By-ND Monica Vidal on Flickr
  • 7. Worldwide Distribution of Bike Shares
  • 8. Current Locations for my Visualisation
  • 9. Rejected Locations 
  • 10. To Be Added
    Any others which have websites with location data for stations and counts for both bikes and spaces
    Not Nextbike schemes in Eastern Europe (no spaces)
    But they do have bike IDs for up to 5 bikes at each dock
    Not various large schemes in China (no website)
    Not Velib (as requested by operator)
  • 11. Melbourne – Helmets
    Scheme started in June 2010, slow to grow
    By law, helmets must be worn (or AU$150 fine)
    Helmets are not supplied with the scheme
    Can now buy AU$5 helmet from two vending machines or a supermarket chain
    Return to a supermarket for AU$3 cash-back
    Also launched in the middle of winter
    Source and image from
  • 12. Brussels – Where’s My Villo?
    Campaign group
    Aiming to improve:
    Service level transparency
    Tracking performance measures
    Interested in comparing with other cities
    Source and images from
  • 13. Denver – Conspiracy
    “Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are ‘converting Denver into a United Nations community.’“Dan Maes said Denver's B-Cycle bike-sharing program was promoted by a group that puts the environment above citizen rights.”
    article in the Denver Post
    Source, photo CC-By-NC Trace Altman on Flickr
  • 14. Let’s Visualise Them!
    Obtain the data from the operators’ websites
    Some provide XML/JSON/KML
    Lots of Regex parsing
    Velib-based systems require two stages
    Store it for analysis
    Stick it on a map
    OpenLayers has some nice vector styling for points
    OpenStreetMap-based background
    Charts of historical trends via the Google Chart API
  • 15.
    Background map CC-By-SA OpenStreetMap contributors
  • 16.
    Background map CC-By-SA OpenStreetMap contributors
  • 17. Animation over 48 hours
    All in Javascript
    Using SVG (or VML in Internet Explorer)
    The animation is extremely slow in I.E.
    Not great in Firefox
    Excellent in Chrome/Safari
  • 18. N Europe:
    1. London
    2. Paris
    3. Dublin
    4. Brussels
    1. Barcelona
    2. Girona
    3. Valencia
    4. Seville
    1. Wash. DC
    2. Montreal
    3. Minneapolis
    4. Denver
    1. Vienna
    2. Milan
    3. Toyama, JP
    4. Melbourne
  • 19. Bike/Dock Ratio
    A key component in the optimisation of a bike hire scheme
    For the users, having too many bikes is very bad
    Frustrating if you can’t drop off your bike while the clock is ticking.
    But more bikes mean more visibility for the scheme and promotion for the sponsors
  • 20. Bike/Dock Ratio
    • No of bikes per 100 docks
    • 21. Based on max availabilityat around 5am (“no” usage)
    • 22. Averaged over a few weeks
    Background map CC-By-SA OpenStreetMap contributors
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 23. Peak Usage % (Weekday)
    • Max % of bikes being used
    • 24. Data from last Wednesday
    • 25. Not directly measurable
    • 26. Assumes that usage dropped to zero overnight
    • 27. Simple analysis, not considering the effect of weather conditions, public holidays or special events
    Photos CC-NC-By-ND D1v1d on Flickr
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 28. Peak Usage % (Weekend)
    • Max % of bikes being used
    • 29. Data from last Saturday
    • 30. Weekend usage much higher than weekday usage for the U.S. cities, lower for Europe
    Photos CC-NC-By DDOT DC on Flickr
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 31.
    Tweet-o-Meter for bikes
    Steven Gray (@frogo)
    Using Google Gauges
    See the real life Tweet-o-Meters at the new British Library “Growing Knowledge” exhibition
    Should be easy to hack to show the Bike-o-Meters instead 
  • 32. Weekday Use – 1. Europe ex-Spain
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 33. Weekday Use – 2. Spain
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 34. Weekday Use – 3. Rest of World
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 35. Weekend Use – 1. Europe ex-Spain
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 36. Weekend Use – 2. Spain
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 37. Weekend Use – 3. Rest of World
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 38. More Analysis
    Graph shows number of bikes available to hire
    Effect of rain
    Using the CASA weather station
    Effect of the tube strikes
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 39. More Analysis!Clustering
    Geodemographics of a city area based on usage patterns of stations within it?
    Could combine with existing demographic data to predict likely usage patterns of new stations
    Clustering output courtesy of James Cheshire
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 40. Even More Analysis!Redistribution Effectiveness
    • Distribution
    • 41. Which cities have the most effective redistributions?
    • 42. When does the redistribution occur?
    • 43. Does it actually make things worse?
  • Redistribution Effectiveness
    Preliminary/unreviewed data
  • 44. Even More Analysis Possible?
    Shapes and sizes of cities and their schemes
    How convenient is the scheme for the intended users?
    Coverage in residential versus commercial areas
    Dock station densities
    How far away from your destination to you need to go to find a docking station?
    Would require “bike-level” information rather than “station-level” as at present
  • 45. Also in the Community
    Adrian Short (@adrianshort)
    first “Boris Bikes” API for London
    Andrew Larcombe (@andrewl)
    Where Are The Bikes API - A universal PHP API for extracting data for bike share schemes
    Currently includes over 60 schemes
  • 46. Also in the Community
    Aidan Slingsby (City Uni)
    Includes “seeing ahead” for the next four hours
    Tom Taylor
    Cycle Hire Explorer
    Includes total usage counts
    Lots of cycle hire apps for iPhone/Android
    Screenshot of Aidan Slingsby’s TFL Bikes graphs
  • 47. Also in the Community
    Screenshots of some of the apps on the iPhone (iOS4) for the London Cycle Hire scheme.
    Clockwise from top left: Cycle Hire Live, iLondonCycle, London Cycle, BixouLite, Blue Lanes, Apple App Store
  • 48. Thanks!
    Email: o.obrien [at]
    Twitter: @oobr
    Photo CC-NC-By KurtisGarbutt on Flickr