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Cyclists ride faster on Wednesdays, well in Lyon they do say researchers

Academics crunch numbers from more than 11 million trips on French city's Velov' ...

Analysis of data from the Velo'v cycle hire scheme has revealed the intriguing fact that cyclists in the city ride faster on wednesdays than any other during the week

So why do Lyonais cyclists go faster on Wednesdays? The researchers’ explanation for that is that Wednesday is a day when women in France are more likely to stay at home and look after their children, meaning there is a greater proportion of men out and about on the hire bikes and they presumably ride faster. We can hear the audible 'pfft!" from the female citizenry of Lyon from here.

Fast wednesdays is just one of the findings to have come out of an analysis of data from the city’s Vélo’v cycle hire scheme, launched in 2005, which provided the model for the hugely successful Vélb’ initiative in Paris.

Vélo’v provides around 4,000 hire bikes at almost 350 docking stations around the city, making it not much smaller than London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, despite Lyon having a population of just under 500,000, compared to the British capital’s 7.5 million.

Now, a research team led by Pablo Jensen at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon has conducted a detailed analysis of 11.6 million journeys undertaken using the city’s hire bikes between May 2005 and December 2007, according to a report on MIT Technology Review’s Physics arXiv blog.

The full research paper, called Characterizing The Speed And Paths Of Shared Bicycles In Lyon, is published in the December 2010 issue of Elsevier’s Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment (subscription required).

Its key findings should help local transport planners refine the scheme, since it will enable them to accurately predict usage levels and patterns, something that will also be possible with similar schemes elsewhere, and plan availability of bikes and the provision of other cycling infrastructure accordingly.

Researchers found that the average journey covered 2.49km and took 14.7, giving an average speed 10 km/h, in line with the average speed of a car in European cities. Average speed rose to 15 km/h, however, during rush hour, making Vélo’v a much quicker way of getting around, even before taking account of the difficulties of finding a place to park a car.

Those quicker speeds during peak times reflected commuting cyclists dashing to work, while at weekends, the average speed fell to 10 km/h as the balance of users swung towards leisure cyclists.

Jensen and his colleagues also found that journeys made by bicycles were shorter in distance than those made between the same two points by car, and concluded that, with Lyon not having any dedicated bike paths, this meant that cyclists were riding in bus lanes and on the pavement, as well as going the wrong way up one-way streets, to get to their destination.

Another explanation, but one that does not seem to have been addressed, is that it’s far easier to navigate a city centre on bike than in a car, which may themselves be excluded from certain streets and with drivers often using main roads for much of the journey which may not necessarily plot a straight line from A to B.

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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OldRidgeback | 13 years ago

On balance I think you'd certainly be faster heading to your mistress than returning. I'm sure the anticipation would act as an accelerant. The return would be slower for a number of reasons I'm sure adults would be able to understand. Mind you, this analysis assumes a positive relationship with the mistress. If things were not going so well, perhaps the journey to the mistress would be slower than the return? I think we need some scientific analysis here. How many people would like to step up to the plate and provide actual data?

RuthF28 | 13 years ago

I cycle faster on Wednesdays because it's dustbin day and I'm usually running late for work!

Garrigou | 13 years ago

So, would one be faster on the way TO one's mistress, or on the way back?!  39

pickles | 13 years ago

Wednesday is also the day to traditionally visit one's mistress.

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