Alex Goldmark is the senior producer of Note to Self, a storytelling show about how technology is changing society. Subscribe here to get Note to Self shows delivered right to your devices. Follow him on Twitter @alexgoldmark.
The Three (and a Half) Citi Bike Usage Patterns
You can tell the kind of neighborhood from Citi Bike docking data
Sunday, July 28, 2013 - 04:00 AM
Like commuters and migratory birds, Citi Bike riders flock together in predictable flows. An early look at the available NYC bike share user data point to three (-ish) patterns.
WNYC's Data News team charted the average number of available bikes by time of day for every station in the Citi Bike system. As you might expect, different docks are used differently, depending on where they are and what kinds of bike riders are likely to be using them most. (Click around this map to see how your docks look).
What wasn't so expected was how stark and how uniform the usage patterns were across the network. Three patterns pop up for most of the stations. A small number of stations have a seemingly random squiggle that isn't really a pattern (see #4 below).
1) The Hump
(Financial District, Most of Midtown, Brooklyn Navy Yard, SoHo)
Commercial neighborhoods have a hump. The docks start empty and fill up as the work day starts, remaining full until it's time to roll home (or to happy hour) and are mostly empty until morning.
2) The Canyon
(E. Village, Brooklyn Heights, Ft. Greene, places far from subway stops)
It's the reverse of the hump. In more residential neighborhoods, the docks start the day mostly full and clear out during rush hour as users pedal to subway stations and commercial neighborhoods.
3) The Flatliner
(Edges of the usage area, Fulton St, BK,)
A small number of docks don't fluctuate that much in the way of available bikes. This could be because they aren't used very much or because they are used very consistently. It tends to happen at the edges of the coverage areas -- particularly in Brooklyn -- in the neighborhoods with less volume of foot and transit traffic.
4) The Jagged Edge
(Chinatown, Williamsburg, several stations very close to subway stops)
A few stations have erratic usage patterns that reveal lots of people are taking out and bringing in bikes there, but not in any migratory flock like with the Hump and Canyon. This erratic scribble of a pattern tends to show up in neighborhoods that are a mix of commercial and residential, and also docks close to mass transit stops.