Public policy should reflect the real potential for cycling to accommodate people's daily transportation needs.
By Ryan McGreal
Published April 08, 2016
I was curious about the distribution of Hamilton Bike Share trips by hour of day, so I took the set of every trip since the service launched a year ago in mid-January and made a chart:
Chart 1: Hamilton Bike Share trips by hour
As you can see, the quietest hour of the day for bike share trips is between 5:00 and 6:00 AM, after which ridership rapidly climbs to a peak at 9:00 AM. Ridership declines a bit and plateaus during the day and then rises to a second, taller peak between 5:00 and 6:00 PM before falling off steadily into the night.
I'm interested in those two peaks, which correspond with AM and PM rush hour, when most people are heading to and from work and transportation systems are at their busiest. This tells us that a non-trivial percentage of bike share rides are commutes to - and especially from - work.
To dig a bit deeper, I excluded weekend days from the data set and plotted a chart with just weekday rides.
Chart 2: Hamilton Bike Share trips by hour on weekdays
When you strip out weekends, the AM and PM ridership spikes become even more pronounced. They're easily 60 percent higher than the midday average between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
Just to see the spike more clearly, here is a chart of rides per hour on just weekend days:
Chart 3: Hamilton Bike Share trips by hour on weekend days
As you see, it follows something closer to a normal (bell-curve) distribution, rising from the lowest ridership at 6:00 AM to a plateau between 3:00 and 5:00 PM and declining thereafter. This weekend distribution of trips looks more like the pattern you would expect of a service that is mainly recreational rather than commuter-oriented.
For me, the biggest takeaway here is that on weekdays, Hamilton Bike Share is definitely not just a way for hipsters to tool around for fun. The results show that that Bike Share is a legitimate component of the city's transportation infrastructure.
For a municipality that too often makes cycling infrastructure decisions based on the assumption that cycling is for recreation, this is an important reminder that public policy should reflect the real potential for cycling to accommodate people's daily transportation needs.
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