Bike Share

Cartography Update for the Bike Share Visualisation

I’ve refreshed the cartography for my bike share visualisation – the grey background, with dark grey rivers, was looking a bit, well, grey. The rivers are now a nice shade of blue, with the land a bit browner. I’ve also fixed the display of the visualisation on iPhones and iPads (and presumably other portable devices.) It now uses the new “touch gestures” code in the development (unreleased) version of OpenLayers, allowing people to pinch, zoom and pan with their fingers. I’ve also done a general tidy of how the information is displayed, at the top and the bottom of the screen, taking out some of the clutter and highlighting the key numbers more prominently. The animated version has also had a spring clean.

Finally, I’ve added in San Antonio, Chicago and Des Moines bike shares. These are all quite small schemes, but they use B-Cycle technology, which means pulling in their data was very easy to do – it’s exactly the same as for Denver, which I already had.

There is also a small change in the statistics – the “max today” stat is now based on the local time for the bike share, not London time.

Next on the to-do list is to add the current weather, and display the time in the local time zone, rather than the time on your computer. Also I look forward to seeing the data from Torontoand Ottawa in Canada and Boulder in Colorado, US. Both schemes are launching in the next month and look to be quite large so will provide a good insight into the movement of the respective cities. Watch out Europe, America is catching up and with systems that provide excellent data (Bixi and B-Cycle) they’ll overtake you!

Bike Share

American Update

Minneapolis’s Nice Ride bike share ( shiny, updated official website for 2011) has woken up for the 2011 season. Denver’s B-Cycle reopened a few weeks ago. Washington DC & Arlington’s Capital Bikeshare meanwhile continues to get more and more popular, with up to 15% usage on weekdays and higher at weekends, and Miami Beach’s new DecoBike has got off to a spectacular start, with up to 30% of the bikes being in simultaneous use at peak time – about the maximum percentage you would want a scheme to go before finding bikes becomes a real problem. Montreal’s Bixi gets going again later this month. It looks like this is going to be a great year for US/Canadian bike sharing!

Back in the UK, London’s tactics have changed slightly. Significantly fewer bikes are now in the system during weekdays – down 10-15% on launch – but these bikes are put back into the system for the weekend. Weekend afternoon usage is also now very big, with the “spike” of usage being bigger than the weekday commuter ones, and for longer. Looks like the warm, sunny days and the casual user usage patterns are really making a difference now.

Bike Share London

Disposable Boris Bikes

A nice April Fools from Firebox – a disposable cardboard bike. The design bears more than a passing resemblance to the Bixi-designed bikes used for the London Cycle Hire scheme – complete with ID number. Also includes a paper-chain chain and egg-box saddle – I like!

Bike Share

Hello Miami Beach!

Miami Beach now has its own bike share. DecoBike went live last week. Currently there are just over 300 bikes available. At one point yesterday, over a quarter of them were in use – an impressive uptake just one week into the scheme.

Wikipedia says that “Miami Beach is one of only a handful of U.S. locales that has never recorded snow or snow flurries in recorded weather history.” Sounds ideal for a cycling city. Denver and Minneapolis, two of the other big bike share schemes in the U.S., close for the winter (Denver has just restarted for 2011) while the Washington DC/Arlington scheme has had to struggle with another severe winter and lots of snow. Miami Beach doesn’t have such things to worry about.

You can of course see where the bikes are, on my bike share map, along with those in over 30 other cities.

Bike Share

Barclays Cycle Hire – Using the Data

I presented today, to a meeting of the OBIS Project (a grouping of the cities around Europe that have or are implementing bike share schemes) some of the innovative ways that developers have used the data from the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme in London. I looked at some iPhone and Android apps and some visualisations and analysis, and also touched on data from schemes in other countries.

London’s Barclays Cycle Hire: Innovative Usages of Data by Third-Party Developers

There was some interesting questions at the end – such as why I thought some cities might not want to release their cycle hire data for third party use and why TfL hasn’t yet released an API for the cycle data. Also, a comment on why cyclists in Lyon might pedal faster on Wednesdays – is it (perhaps faster) men pedalling to the mid-week football matches?

Thanks to TfL for organising the event, which was held at their lovely
Palestra offices, and the CTC for inviting me.

Bike Share Data Graphics London OpenStreetMap

Boris Bikes Flow Video – Now with Better Curves!

Dr Martin Austwick and I have produced an updated version of the animation of Barclays Cycle Hire bikes on a typical weekday:

Martin has once again done some programming magic to show the River Thames, Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park to add context, plus the trails for the bike “motes” are longer, allowing the road network to be picked out more easily – and the network lines remain as faint “ghosting” in the video. The bikes are also more blue! Although the bridges aren’t specifically marked, their locations quickly become obvious from the volume of bikes crossing them.

I’ve redone the routing, to fix a few problems around Trafalgar Square and a couple of other obvious places. As before, the routing is done using OpenStreetMap data and the Routino routing scripts, optimised for bike usage (i.e constant speeds on all road types, obeying one-way roads and taking advantage of marked cycleways.) I’ve tweaked the desireability of road types, so that trunk and primary roads are now only slightly less desirable than quieter routes. The traffic in most parts of central London is so slow that, based on my own observations, such roads are not such a significant deterrent to cycling. As before, I’m assuming the bikes go along the “best” route, I don’t know where they actually went. Hires that start and end at the same point – popular in Hyde Park – are shown with the motes spinning around the point.

I’ve also included road curves this time. This means bikes don’t go in straight lines between junctions. This was particularly noticeable when they cut the corner of the Thames in the last animation! Watch the bikes as they carefully curve around the kinks of West Carriage Drive in Hyde Park, around the graceful arcs of Regent Street and Aldwych and along the Victoria Embankment. (I don’t think there are many other classic curves in the central London area?)

Expand the video to full-screen, and, if your connection can take it, click the HD button to get a higher-quality with even bluer bikes!

The data for the bikes themselves is from Transport for London, with the Thames, parks and the underlying network being faithfully drawn by OpenStreetMap contributors. One of the great advantages of using OSM data – apart from it being easy to access, is it’s often very up-to-date. For example, you can see the kink at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge, on the animation, where the road bends around the Blackfriars Station redevelopment site.

Bike Share Data Graphics London OpenStreetMap

Flow Animation of Barclays Cycle Hire Bikes

Dr Martin Austwick and I, here at UCL CASA, have been working on an animation of the Barclays Cycle Hire bikes (aka Boris Bikes) in London, based on the historical flow information that was released by Transport for London (TfL) last month.

Taking one of the busiest days of the scheme – the 4th of October last year, a Monday which coincided with a London Underground strike – Martin has created an animation showing pulsing blobs, or motes, representing the bikes, moving through the 18 hours of the day that the data is available for. As each hire is made, the docking station dot flashes red, and and blue trail starts to leave it, heading towards the destination dock which flashes yellow as it receives a bike.

At the rush-hour peaks (08:45 and 17:45) the map becomes a sea of a 1000 blue pulses, many congregating on a number of key routes in London. The few bridges across River Thames can be picked out as intense bars of light, as commuters travel between Waterloo/South Bank and the City/West End. Hyde Park (middle left) and Regents Park (top left) are noticeable from having few docks in their area, and only a few bikes crossing them. The east seems busier than the west, as the City workers typically commute to work earlier and so dominate the scheme on strike day.

Martin’s used Processing, a rich Java graphics library, to create the animation, which has been then output to video. This allows the up-to-1000 bikes to be animated smoothly and effectively.

The bikes are in official Barclays Blue, although if you don’t view the video in HD, they look slightly washed out. Watch the video on the Vimeo website in HD, although you’ll need a fast computer and a broadband connection.

The routing is done based on the OpenStreetMap data for central London. I used Routino to do the routing, producing a routing file for each of the 137,000 possible journeys between docks in London. The routing is directed, meaning the bikes won’t cycle the wrong way down a one-way street. They also generally avoid trunk roads, such as Euston Road, preferring to use the quieter roads and dedicated cycle lanes nearby. Being able to use the new cycling infrastructure in the routing, is one big advantage of using OpenStreetMap.

A disadvantage is where the routing is wrong. For example, access from the Embankment is not shown correctly. Another problem was the reluctance to cross Trafalgar Square in the centre of the city. This meant I had to move a couple of the docking stations slightly. An example of the latter is shown in the picture here. These quirks, and a few others, result in some bikes flying around the animation extremely fast, as the router sends them a mile up in one direction, around a roundabout, and back down in the other direction. The speeds of the bikes are based on the duration information for the journey, which is included in the data, so they start and finish at the right time.

The routing is the “best guess” route, based on the assumption that the majority of cycle users will know the “best” route to take. Casual and multi-stop use will be less accurately shown. Bikes which are returned to the same docking station they started from, are shown “orbiting” the dock for four times, before returning to it.

The work follows on from a recent animation showing the TfL buses in London, by Anil Bawa-Cavia, also here at the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis in London.

Bike Share

Paris Open Data site Launches

After Washington DC’s pioneering site, and the launch last year of London’s Data Store, a catalogue of free and open public data about the city, Paris has now unveiled a similar own open data site: ParisData. They have a Twitter account too.

There’s not a huge number of datasets listed on the site yet, but it looks very promising. My hope is that the live-running data for the huge “Velib” bike share system in the city gets added to the site, so that I would be allowed to re-enable my live bike share map of Paris.

Incidentally, the London’s bike share (aka Barclays Cycle Hire) live-running data is not in fact available on the London Data Store either – they seem not be aware of this anomaly but the operator in London has at least tacitly allowed third-party use through “scraping”. Paris is the “grand daddy” of all bike share schemes though (at least in Europe) so having Paris in the fold would be great.

For now though, for open data in France, Rennes is still the best.

Bike Share

Washington DC Storm – Bike Share Shutdown

Washington DC’s Capital Bike Share is shutdown tonight because of another snow storm there.

On my bike share map, red circles have appeared around all the docking stations, indicating they are locked down to prevent new journeys starting.

With the Montreal, Denver and Minneapolis systems closed for the winter, none of the major North American bike shares are operating right now.

Bike Share Data Graphics London

Barclays Cycle Hire – Extending East

Alexander Baxevanis, maker of the excellent free Cycle Hire Map app for the iPhone, has obtained a list of 227 proposed sites for the eastwards extension (and expansion of the existing area) of the Barclays Cycle Hires scheme through a Freedom of Information request on MySociety’s What Do They Know. Unfortunately TfL didn’t provide the exact locations of the proposed new docks, rather just the street names, or occasionally junctions.

I have taken the list and geocoded it – using Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables as a first pass, then manually geocoding the 40 or so that failed using OpenStreetMap data.

Red dots show the proposed new locations, with yellow dots showing the existing stands as of January 2011.

You can download the locations from the Google Fusion table here or view a larger version of the map here. See the FOI response for the source data set.

Very important caveats: Because the names are often only street names, the “dot” representing the new dock is placed fairly arbitrarily along the street – in reality, the actual location may be quite far along the street from this place. Consider that these locations are simply my guesses. Also, it is really important to emphasise these are the proposed locations – TfL has not yet started the planning process or consulted with the councils/residents yet. It is likely that quite a few of these will not actually be built, or will be relocated elsewhere, come later this year or early 2012 when the expansion goes live.

Along the way I discovered a number of curiosities, such as:

  • the official name for College Green – the bit of grass outside the Palace of Westminster where MPs are often interviewed – being Abingdon (or Abington?) Street Gardens.
  • a street that has just been born (photo) and doesn’t appear on any public web maps except OSM (now).
  • the various “marketing” names for the new residential skyscrapers appearing around Canary Wharf, such as Streamlight, Ability Place and Pan Peninsula.

Indeed, many of the proposed sites are outside these large new residential blocks, and also outside many of the DLR and train/tube stations in Tower Hamlets – unlike the initial launch of the scheme, there seems to be no shying away from placing stands right next to the stations, where commuters are likely to be piling onto them.

(I was very impressed with Openlayers/Canvas heatmaps the other day, so the first picture above is a heatmap showing dock density, for the fully extended scheme. The background for that picture is OpenStreetMap.)