Three benefits of mobilising bike-share data and journey planners
Johan Herrlin, CEO of Ito World, tells Intelligent Transport how bike-sharing schemes have thrived since their launch 10 years ago, and how they and their infrastructure are now a valuable source of data…
It is now 10 years since the launch of the world’s first large-scale bike-share scheme, Velib in Paris.
Since then, a thousand other schemes have been launched and bike-share systems are now prevalent across the globe – popping up all the way from New York to Melbourne.
Geographic growth has been accompanied with innovation and traditional docked schemes have been joined by dockless free-floating systems. Born out of universities in China, companies such as oBike, Ofo, and MoBike have revolutionised bike-sharing, allowing cyclists to leave their bikes anywhere in a city, not limited to specific stations.
Despite a divergence in the types of bike-share systems, the role of data in enhancing the customer experience is ubiquitous in both. Docked systems communicate the availability of bikes at nearby stations so users can remotely check to see if a bike is available. To avoid people having to spend time searching for a bike, free-floating schemes make GPS data available so nearby bikes can be found easily. In both cases, data is harnessed to help the user find an available bike so that they can start their journey quickly.
Citymapper, a global journey planner, has recently started including data from the Santander Cycles bike-share scheme in its London application. Combining information from bike-share schemes with the intelligence of journey planners in this way has the potential to greatly enhance the bike-share experience. Here are three possible benefits:
1. Identifying faster, safer routes
The nearest bike is not necessarily the best option. A journey planner will account for the bike’s location relative to the destination. This will provide the fastest possible journey, accounting for time both walking to the bike and cycling. In the case of docked systems, it will also account for dock availability at the end of a journey – there’s no point in arriving at a station to find all the docks full.
In addition, the route chosen will take advantage of the journey planner’s built-in knowledge of cycling routes. These routes combine speed and safety, ensuring fast, comfortable routes are taken advantage of. With bike-share data empowered in the journey planner, users can make the most of a city’s cycling infrastructure.
2. Encouraging new riders through multi-modal journeys
A great benefit of bike-share schemes is that they encourage incorporating cycling into a journey, along with other modes of transport. For example, you could take the train from Edinburgh to Kings Cross and then, using a Santander bike, cycle to your final destination through central London.
However, these trips often require complex planning and a wider knowledge of the bike-share system and the city. A journey planner, through its routing engine, could bridge this knowledge gap by automatically planning multi-modal journeys. Travellers might have no idea that a bike could fit so nicely into their journey. These additional, previously unconsidered journeys would allow users to avoid a change of trains at a busy station or speed up the ‘final mile’ of a trip from a station.
3. Improving reliability through rebalancing
Bikes need to be found where journeys start. If travellers can’t rely on a bike being nearby when they need it, they will not incorporate it into their regular trips. Rebalancing trucks for docked systems are used in some cities to deal with this problem. However, these are costly – both financially and environmentally.
Increasingly, schemes also use rider benefits to encourage users to take bikes from less popular starting points to busier ones. For example, some free-floating schemes offer free journeys: Capital Bikeshare, a docked system in Washington DC, offers prize draw tickets and membership extensions. However, the benefits are only offered to proactive users through the system’s application and therefore don’t encourage a large enough volume of movement.
Involving journey planners in this process offers two advantages. Firstly, the benefit is advertised to far more people – including those that may not be aware they could cycle home for free instead of paying for the tube. Secondly, and more significantly, those exposed to the benefit are targeted based on their journey choice – so that their final destination combines well with the rebalancing needs of the bike-share system.