Bike Share London

Waiting for the Data

An interesting article on Transport for London (TfL) data has appeared on the London Data Store blog from Anthony Browne – the Greater London Authority’s Policy Director for Economic Development. The article announces the return of Trackernet, the live feed of tube train locations.

TfL must be commended for working on restoring this feed and making it freely availably, particularly as their national counterparts, National Rail, are apparently busy locking down departure board data and insisting on being paid a fee every time someone queries departure information for the (publically subsidised) trains through an app! TfL has made the feed available as part of a redesign and enhancement of their developer area, which also includes a sample (5%) of Oyster card journey data for November last year, potentially very interesting for visualising and analysing how London moves. The enhancements also include moving Trackernet to the cloud so that it scales well with heavy usage.

However, the article is incorrect as it says “…I wouldn’t have found a free docking station in Shoreditch without the bike hire apps that are made possible (at no cost to the public) by the simple expediency of TfL publishing the cycle data. ”

Unfortunately, the cycle data published by TfL wouldn’t have helped – the TfL data available through the developer area/APIs simply is a static list of docking stations, with locations and maximum capacities. The near-live information, used by the apps in order to show full/free status, can only be obtained by regularly “scraping” the HTML source code from the official Google map mashup of the scheme, on the TfL website, or using a third-party API that does the same, such as the excellent BorisAPI. Should TfL decide to redesign their map, there is every chance the coding changes would break these unofficial feeds, simultaneously breaking all the apps, and other cycle visualisations, such as my own. The developer community still awaits an official API for the near-live information, such as is available in Rennes.

On the topic of forthcoming data from TfL, I am also eagerly awaiting the release of the first one million bike share journeys, that has been promised as the result of a freedom of information request.

London is certainly going forwards, as quickly as the rest of the country is going backwards, in terms of opening up public travel data, but we’re not there yet!

Bike Share

Bikes, Strikes, Snow and Ice

It’s been a challenging week for the Boris Bikers of London. Friday/Saturday/Sunday were very cold, but dry, days. Then Monday there was a tube strike, meaning many more occasional bike share cyclists would be on the streets. On Tuesday came the snow finally – it wasn’t settling on the streets of the city, unlike further north, but there was plenty of it coming down, and a strong wind made it a quite unpleasant day to be on the bike. Yesterday was a bit more pleasant, although there was some ice around and ongoing general travel disruption, while last night there was more snow, lying this time and causing more transport problems, particularly for the commuters.

The weather has been affecting outer London transport more than that in central London, so the time the Train+Bike commuters make it in has shifted back in the morning – but no such displacement happens in the evenings, as the transport problems don’t hit them until they finish their bike journey and try and get a train.

Some interesting usage patterns appear on the graph below. The graph shows the number of available spaces, the change of which is a good indicator of the number of Boris Bikes coasting around the streets.

Day Peak Morning Usage Peak Afternoon Usage Max No of Bikes In Use Special Events
Friday 26 November 08:52 17:52 599 Cold
Saturday 27 November N/A 12:54 201 Weekend
Sunday 28 November N/A 15:28 281 Weekend
Monday 29 November 11:34 18:20 1143 Tube strike
Tuesday 30 November 08:40 18:14 518 Snowing
Wednesday 1 December 11:50 18:24 735 Icy
Thursday 2 December 08:54 N/A 442* Snowing and Icy

* Based on morning rush-hour figures only.

(N.B The Bikes in Use measure is approximate, as it doesn’t take into account new docking stations added in the same day – there have been several recently – or bikes marked as faulty, which in the current weather conditions is likely to be a significant number.)

The computer system has also been struggling, with a big outage on Friday night and Wednesday morning, a blip at around 7am each day, and some other smaller outages. The system is presumably being upgraded at the moment for the imminent introduction of “casual” (i.e. non-member) hire, and the weather can’t have been helping with the electronics either.