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Researcher uses TfL data to chart usage of London's fleet of Boris Bikes

Real-time data shows availability of hire bikes with lovely graphic interface

A research assistant from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London has used TfL data to devise a graphic visualisation of how the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme’s fleet of so-called Boris Bikes are being used and the result really is a thing of beauty.

Oliver O’Brien has outlined how he is using the data on his Suprageography blog, while a dedicated page shows real-time information, with the possibility of zooming into and out of the map. The picture above shows the situation at around 3.30 this afternoon. Updates are provided every two minutes.

The size of the bubble denoting each docking station equates to its capacity, and a colour scale ranging from blue for empty through red for full indicates the availability or otherwise of bikes there. A circle around the docking station means it’s empty if the circle is light blue around a blue bubble, or full if it’s a yellow circle round a red bubble.

Clicking on each bubble brings up a graph showing usage patterns at individual docking stations over the past 24 hours, and a distinct pattern is emerging – during the working day, bikes are concentrated in the centre of the hire zone, while in the evenings and overnight, they are more likely to be found on the periphery.

Put another way, the pattern of use is aligned very closely to people commuting in and out of the centre of London, and the City and West End in particular, at the beginning and end of the working day.

That mirrors the experience seen in the Vélib’ scheme in Paris, although there the city had the added headache of residents of Montmartre freewheeling downhill into the city centre in the morning, then using other means to return home in the evening, meaning that bikes had to be loaded into trucks to be taken back up the hill and put in place at the docking stations, ready for the following morning.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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