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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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Alan Jett | 13 years ago

Wouldnt call him vain hes doing a good service. Vain is Al Fayed when he owned Harrods and had an almost full size sculpture of himself in the Department store ground floor Thats vain. At least Boris is trying to get the cycle system sorted.  1 Alan

Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

The problem is Mike, that's what everyone seems to call them - history is littered with examples of the wrong people getting the credit for other people's good ideas. I'm sure your views on Boris's commitment to cycling are shared by many cyclists but to be fair to Boris it was one of his flagship schemes + he is is also getting some of the brickbats for early teething problems and, yes, even a lack of ambition on the initial scale of the hire bike scheme. Anyway the alternative would seem to be name-checking a bank.

Mike McBeth | 13 years ago

Please stop calling them Boris Bikes - he's vain and self-important enough already and the London cycle hire scheme wasn't even his idea - the initiative was begun by former mayor, Ken Livingstone. Boris says he champions cycling in London, but his actions suggest a less wholehearted approach - wanting to abandon the western congestion charge zone, allowing motorbikes in cyles lanes and cutting funding for safety measures aimed at lorry drivers in London.

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