Feast Your Eyes on Beautiful Trip Data From Year-Old Bay Area Bike Share

The constellations of Bay Area Bike Share traffic in SF, as visualized by Bjorn Vermeersch [PDF].
Bay Area Bike Share fans created some pretty dazzling images and videos to visualize the system’s first six months of data, showing how this transportation system connects commuters’ dots in SF and four other cities down the Peninsula. BABS’ first birthday is approaching on August 29, and while the system isn’t growing as fast as many would like, it has certainly matured into a normal part of downtown streets. The system has seen over 250,000 trips so far, most of them in SF.

The visualizations were submitted for an “Open Data Challenge” contest sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which has taken over BABS management from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. From the MTC website:

In March, Bay Area Bike Share released a large, detailed set of anonymous data collected since the launch of the pilot program in August 2013. Users were invited to take the data, which included trip times, locations and bike numbers, among other information, and present it in a visually compelling manner. What resulted were 35 innovative and interactive entries. Five winners were awarded for best overall visualization, best presentation, best analysis, best data exploration tool and best data narrative.

One of the most informative and mesmerizing creations came from Bjorn Vermeersch. He won the “Best Data Narrative” award by painting bike-share trip patterns in various patterns: as a solar system, constellations, and inkblot patterns which resemble things like birds.

One winning submission, from Pili Mayora, showed a day in the life of a BABS bike in a time-lapse video.

The data themselves aren’t too surprising. Bike-share users heavily use stations traveling to and from Caltrain stations, and between various points within the station areas during lunchtime. The visuals show how stations fill up and empty out at different rates, depending on factors like the time of day and year. The “Best Overall Visualization” winner, Virot Ta Chiraphadhanakul, created an interactive map that displays trip patterns between any two stations.

These data should help inform the planned BABS expansion into the East Bay and beyond (the North Bay is a-knockin’). By now, it’s pretty clear clear that bike-share is a vital link between transit, jobs, and everywhere else, and needs to expand throughout the region.

One other takeaway, one year on, is that Bay Area Bike Share has been embraced without much hue and cry — bike-share is not so widely embraced by everyone in New York City.

Check out all of the winning data visualizations on the BABS website.

A screenshot of Virot Ta Chiraphadhanakul’s interactive map.
  • baklazhan

    I didn’t see what I thought would be the most interesting statistics, so I made some graphs from the data on the website. I’m assuming that there are 350/130/50/50/50 bikes in the cities, which I read earlier. It’s not interactive, but I think it’s more informative. Here you go:

  • djconnel

    That’s great! No slick graphics but it cuts straight to the heart of the matter. The peninsula zones are way below critical density, but then so is the development there, which is why so many are willing to live with the burdensome commute from San Francisco. And the seasonal variation is less than might have been expected. I’m personally impressed the bikes remain in good operating condition: I had expected more vandalism, more abuse. Hopefully the system can spread across SF and reach closer to its potential.

  • saimin

    I have to believe that more people would use Bike Share in Silicon Valley if there were more stations in the residential areas. Right now, the stations are mostly in business areas, which makes the system useless to people starting from home.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Average trips on weekends are over 40 minutes? That seems quite surprising, given that all of those trips cost extra. I would have expected that people use BABS to get places, and would just switch bikes at the 28 minute mark rather than pay extra, but I guess a significant fraction of people are doing longer rides outside the station area, and are willing to pay for it.

  • JB

    Keep in mind we had a very dry and balmy winter. There was one cold week that was near freezing in December only and the mean temp in January was mid/high 50F and there were days in January where temps even in Sunset exceeded 70F. Seasonal variation will likely be greater when we have more rain.

  • JB

    Tourist users maybe? I have seen people take those over the GG Bridge before and as far away as Tiburon.

  • saimin

    I regularly see people riding the BABS bikes around Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. I’m guessing that they either did not understand the 30 minute overage charges or misjudged how far those destinations were from the nearest docking stations. Do any of these reports say where people were actually riding the bikes, instead of just which docks they were using?

  • Alex

    Thank you for this, it gets right to the flaw I see in the current system and that’s spreading the resources too thin in order to create a regional system rather than focusing the effort on densely populated SF & Oakland where it’s clearly more successful. It’s the same mindset as BART, they keep expanding out to have a regional system yet in the city where they are really needed and would be used the most because of density, they don’t have the coverage. Focus the efforts on the two areas with the highest density and population in order to make the system the most successful and then expand out from there.

  • Alex

    I designed sustainable homes in Old Palo Alto for 3 years and from my experience that wouldn’t be very successful. Even among those who are trying to be green on the peninsula, it’s still very much a car culture and with the exception of a few areas it’s too spread out for most people to want to bike for more than exercise. Those who do bike down there usually have the resources to own their own bikes and the space to store them. I think they need to focus the system on Oakland & SF to make it truly successful with wide use by a critical mass and from there it can expand out, otherwise the resources are spread too thin for its success and adoption to be fully realized.

  • saimin

    The big advantage of bike share is that you don’t have to worry about your bike being stolen, especially if you are parking for an extended period such as at work without secure indoor parking. Also, bicycle space on Caltrain is limited, so taking a bike share from home to the station really helps with that problem. The biggest deterrent to bicycle commuting in suburban areas is the risk of bicycle theft, not traffic.

  • Alex

    I have to disagree, wide highway like streets, ample & free parking and far distances are the biggest deterrent to bicycle riding in most suburbs from what I have read and experienced.

    I do agree that lack of theft is a big draw to bike sharing especially in urban areas and some suburbs but I doubt it’s a major consideration in the typically car loving, wealthy and low crime towns of the peninsula to be the biggest deterrent to bike riding.


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