"As with any visualization, the hope is to impress upon the viewer some information that they can’t get while staring at a table of numbers," Whong says. "When the data comes to life, new ideas can follow. Analysis of movement of these bikes could help planners decide where to invest more in bike infrastructure improvements, or simply prompt further studies."
Whong worked on the idea at last weekend’s EcoHack event, which brings together "a diverse community of scientists, hackers, designers and hobbyists" to collaborate on sustainability-themed projects.
One group at the hack was Cyclee, which is building an open-source platform for cycling fixes. For example, it hopes to use GPS data from cell phones to show how heavily commuters are using roads and pathways, and to suggest optimal routes.
Whong’s video has already caused a debate about drinking-while-bike-sharing.
"Viewers on Twitter and Reddit seem most shocked by the trips after 3 a.m. They call it the ride of shame," he says. "For better or worse, the visualization raises the questions and fuels discussion, and that’s a valuable effect in my opinion."