2014-11-13

How We're Visualizing New York's New Bike Sharing System

As the popularity of CitiBike grows, so do the interactive graphics that show its use.

The empty Citibike station has become something of a trope on Flickr and Instagram these days, as enthusiastic users of New York City’s new bike-share program document its popularity. New interactive maps, however, take visualizing bike-share to an entirely new level. Thanks to data journalist Jon Bruner and the New Yorker's interactives staff, we can now see the city’s bike-share from a bird’s-eye, watching bubbles of color expand or fade in relation to how many bikes are available at each station. The maps are insanely mesmerizing in a very nerdy way, sort of like watching a human ant farm or massive Rube-Goldberg machine dedicated to urban movement.

The O’Reilly Radar’s Jon Bruner created two interactive maps: One of New York City and one of Washington D.C. In New York, Citibikes disappear from their stations in the East and West Village and converge in the center of the island for the morning commute. Around 6 or 7 p.m., the blue retreats from the middle and heads back to the residential areas at night. (Notice, however, that Citibike has yet to add kiosks serving the rest of the borough and uptown.) On the D.C. map, an 8 a.m. rush pulls bikes downtown and to the National Mall in one magnetic sweep.

A screenshot of Bruner’s interactive NYC map.

"The more remote bike stations in Brooklyn and Arlington exhibit fairly flat availability profiles over the course of the day, suggesting that to the degree they’re used at all, it’s mostly for local trips," Bruner writes.

He also describes how he put the tool together, in case you were wondering:

A bit about the map: I built this by scraping the data feeds that underlie the New York and Washington real-time availability maps every 10 minutes and storing them in a database. I averaged availability by station in 10-minute increments over seven weekdays of collected data.

The New Yorker, meanwhile, measured Citibike use across the entire month of June, and their bubbles expand rather than darken. In the New Yorker version, it appears that patterns become more distinct over the course of the month, as Citibikes are sucked out of the East and West Village in the morning, and flock to Midtown, the financial district, and the center of the Village during the day. As night falls, the New Yorker's map shows the same pattern as Bruner’s: Bikes dart from stations in Midtown East and other tourist-y hotspots and roost in residential areas for the evening.

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