Exploring bike share data

Cycling advocates and planners debating the merits of a $7.9 million bike share for the San Francisco Peninsula may want to look at recently released bike share data from Lyon, France.

People make 16,000 trips every day using Vélo’v bike share in Lyon, which now has 4000 bikes available at nearly 350 stations around the city. Vélo’v has tracked start and destination locations as well as trip time since the bike share began in 2005.

Researcher Pablo Jensen at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon crunched the data from the 11.6 million bike trips and found some interesting things.

  • Lyon, the third largest city in France, is traversed via a cluster of narrow, one-way streets which adds to the driving distance for just about any destination. Lyon bike share data shows, however, that bike trip distance is often shorter than what an equivalent car trip might be. Reasons for this might be shortcuts and a great number of wrong way cyclists riding on the sidewalks. There are no bike lanes in Lyon. (My bike route application, incidentally, works for Lyon France. It doesn’t route you against one-way streets, but it does use the Saône River path.)
  • Average cycling speed is about 10 km/hr — about 6 MPH. On Wednesdays — when French women generally stay home to schlep, pushing the proportion of male cyclists up — the average cycling speed bumps up.
  • The fastest cycling speeds are during the morning commute, when the average rises to almost 15 km/hr (9 MPH). In Lyon, this sedate speed is faster than the average driving speed in that congested city.

In San Francisco / San Mateo / Santa Clara pilot, the bike share is conceived as a way to solve the “last mile” transit problem. In the South Bay / Silicon Valley, a big proportion of office space is dispersed away from transit centers. I work, for example, over three miles from the nearest train station, and local bus service to my office is poorly connected and infrequent.

In spite of recommendations to the contrary from transit bike plan working group members in both San Francisco and Silicon Valley, MTC — the regional transportation planning organization — decided to fund a two year pilot to the tune of $7.9M. Many local cycling advocates question how a bike share would work for last mile transit connections, but MTC believes enough in the concept to make the money available and evaluate the program after it goes live.

It might be interesting, then, mine the data from Lyon to see what can be gleaned to evaluate a bike share for last-mile transit connections.



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