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Christmas Day sees 'record usage' of London's Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme

Analysis of data shows more than 2,000 Boris Bikes on streets at one point, making it the busiest day yet

This year’s Christmas Day saw record simultaneous usage of London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme bikes, according to a data analyst and blogger from University College London (UCL) who has been crunching the numbers on the scheme since it began in July 2010.

Writing on his Suprageography blog, which contains some compelling visualisations of data relating to the scheme, Oliver O'Brien, who works as a researcher and software developer at UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), says “the lack of any Christmas Day tube or bus service in the capital is the obvious reason for the huge usage spike.”

Usage levels on Christmas Day this year, which O'Brien measures by “maximum closed-system simultaneous usage, i.e. maximum number of Boris Bikes out of the docks and rolling around the streets in a single moment, assuming no removal or addition by the operator that day,” shows that at one point, 2,065 bikes were in use on the capital’s streets.

That’s a sharp contrast to the low usage levels seen 12 months earlier, when cold weather and snow combined to keep all but the most hardy from using the scheme, says O’Brien, but the data also suggest something else to us, which is the way the hire bikes have been embraced by Londoners themselves.

This seems reasonable to infer  because, with no transport links in or out of the capital, it would have been those already in the city who chose to take to two wheels.

True, many of those may well have been tourists, but we think it’s fair to assume many would have been Londoners looking to get from A to B in the absence of other forms of public transport, including some people required to work on Christmas Day itself.

That compares to usage of the scheme during a typical weekday when many taken to the distinctive navy blue bikes will be commuters who have travelled in from outside London.

Among the five busiest days of 2011 that O’Brien cites on his blog are Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 October, when the capital basked in an unseasonal heatwave.

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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